By SEMA Washington, D.C., Staff
SEMA and more than 400 industry trade groups have called on Congress to intervene in an ongoing labor dispute that threatens to shut down rail shipments as soon as December 5.
Four unions have rejected a tentative contract reached in September and approved by eight other unions. If a strike occurs, an estimated $2 billion worth of daily shipments would be impacted, covering everything from auto parts to food, energy and other retail products, and commuter rail services. The unions and railroads have until December 9 to resolve differences before workers could strike or be locked out. However, railroads must safely reduce operations and secure their customers’ goods days in advance of a potential strike, which would halt shipments of chemicals, fertilizers, chlorine and some other essential products at least four days sooner.
SEMA joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, National Retail Federation and many other organizations in urging Congress to protect interstate commerce and America’s economic health. Our letter to congressional leadership notes that “No one wins when the railroads stop running...While a voluntary agreement with the four holdout unions is the best outcome, the risks to America’s economy and communities simply make a national rail strike unacceptable.” The groups called on lawmakers to take immediate steps to prevent a national rail strike and the certain economic destruction that would follow.
President Biden has also called on Congress to pass legislation immediately to adopt the tentative labor agreement. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said the House of Representatives would vote this week on a bill to adopt the tentative accord and send it to the Senate for ratification. Congress has intervened 18 times since 1926 in labor negotiations that threatened interstate commerce.
The proposed rail contract includes a 24% pay increase over five years, along with a $5,000 bonus, an added paid day off and no disruptions to current health care plans. The labor dispute centers on requests for more lenient attendance policies and upgraded sick leave policies, which the rail companies argue would require them to hire more staffers.
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