Threatening To Derail Economy Ahead Of Holidays A National Railway Strike Seen As Increasingly Inevitable

 November 25, 2022

Looming largely, a national freight rail-strike, is increasingly inevitable as four rail worker labor unions, out of twelve, have rejected a tentative agreement with rail companies. The deadline to reach an agreement is December 5th.

Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, earlier in September, brokered a tentative deal between rail unions and rail carriers. At the time, President Biden and his Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg, were out of town. Union concerns centered around sick time, how it could be utilized, and scheduling.

At the time, it seemed that Walsh’s work appeared to have avoided a strike. However, Walsh’s deal has fallen apart, and the clock is ticking as a December 9 strike looms large. The potential for far-reaching consequences on the American economy during this holiday time are huge.

According to the Associated Press-

“Railroads haul about 40% of the nation’s freight each year. The railroads estimated that a rail strike would cost the economy $2 billion a day in a report issued earlier this fall. Another recent report put together by a chemical industry trade group projected that if a strike drags on for a month some 700,000 jobs would be lost as manufacturers who rely on railroads shut down, prices of nearly everything would increase even more and the economy could be thrust into a recession.” And…

 “And although some businesses would try to shift shipments over to trucks, there aren’t nearly enough of them available. The Association of American Railroads trade group estimated that 467,000 additional trucks a day would be needed to handle everything railroads deliver.”

-The Associated Press

Bloomberg Law’s, Ian Kullgren, reported on Monday, that Members of SMART Transportation Division, the largest rail union involved in September’s negotiations, voted against the agreement, with three other unions following their lead. According to the Associated press, if the rail companies and unions fail to broker a new deal, Congress could “intervene and impose contract terms on railroad workers,” as it did during the last rail strike in 1992.

A strike would take effect early next month, if neither potential solution materializes. American consumers, at that point could be plagued with far-reaching economic turmoil, and Congressional intervention would become increasingly likely.

The alternate legislative director for SMART Transportation Division, Jared Cassity, noted that he has reduced expectations regarding the rail companies’ willingness to further negotiate.  According to Bloomberg’s’ Kullgren, the unions, seem to assert that the potential for Congress to get involved gives the carriers leverage to withhold concessions at present. Cassity said-

“I’m not optimistic about the railroads’ willingness to negotiate for more,”. “I’m hopeful, but really not that optimistic. And there’s really nothing that obligates them to give more at this point.”…adding “We’re at the end of the Railway Labor Act, and ultimately the end is a lockout or strike. That’s where we are” .

- Jared Cassity, Legislative Director for SMART Transportation Division

CNN Business noted that Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, President Dennis Pearce, echoing Cassity’s sentiments,  stated that “Congress staying out of it would obviously giving [sic] unions leverage,”.

Obviously, the situation puts Biden and fellow pro-union Democrats in Congress in a tough spot. With Americans already bearing the brunt of sky-high inflation that has not been seen in decades, a prolonged strike would only add a more negative economic effect across the board. However, If Congress does intervene, the conditions of its legislation might anger the very union workers they claim to support.

On Monday, a White House official stated that a strike would be “unacceptable,” according to Kullgren:

“As the President has said from the beginning, a shutdown is unacceptable because of the harm it would inflict on jobs, families, farms, businesses, and communities across the country. A majority of unions have voted to ratify the tentative agreement, and the best option is still for the parties to resolve this themselves.”

-White House Spokesperson

The bottom line-

This rail-strike would affect the ability to transport packaged food for humans, food for livestock, crucial chemicals, , and retail goods needed, as families get ready for the holidays.

It is sadly typical, that the Biden administration would wait until the last minute, to literally drop the ball with negotiations (i.e. stepping back to just watch) and put Americans clearly in the cross-hairs of the breakdown in talks with these unions. This is just another demonstration of an administration, that has failed the American people by neglecting to stay abreast, even be involved in, this situation.

This matter should have been settled months ago. That Biden and Buttigieg were absent from the meetings in September is also telling. Seemingly the White House has kicked this issue down the road and now that the end is in sight – they don’t really want involved because it might cost them politically. The American people, it seems, stand to lose again because of their mismanagement tactics. Failure seems to be Biden’s legacy.

“The most serious failure of leadership is the failure to foresee”

-Robert K. Greenleaf
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