Loading...

Biden Calls Tentative Railway Deal ‘A Big Win for America’

September 15, 2022 by Dan McCue
President Joe Biden speaks about a tentative railway labor agreement in the Rose Garden of the White House, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022, in Washington. From left, Deputy Secretary of Labor Julie Su, Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, Biden, Celeste Drake, Made in America Director at the Office of Management and Budget, and National Economic Council director Brian Deese. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden made a last-minute addition to his public schedule on Thursday, inviting railroad and union leaders to the White House to celebrate their averting a nationwide strike that could have crippled the U.S. economy.

Many of those invited to the Oval Office and Rose Garden remarks by the president had yet to catch any sleep in the wake of 20 hours of intense negotiations shepherded by Labor Secretary Marty Walsh.

“This agreement is validation of what I’ve always believed, unions and management can work together — can work together — for the benefit of everyone,” Biden said as he stood alongside officials from the Department of Labor, Office of Management and Budget and the National Economic Council.

Calling the tentative agreement “a big win for America,” the president went on to say it was specifically “a big win for thousands of railroad workers … and their dignity.”

Biden himself was said to have played a key role in the negotiations, placing a call to negotiators at around 9 p.m. Wednesday night.

The two sides had just finished an Italian dinner that had been brought in so they could keep talking, and the president urged them to consider the harm that would be experienced by families, businesses, farmers and others if a shutdown were to occur at 12:01 a.m. Friday morning.

After the president spoke, the talks resumed in earnest and by 2 a.m. Thursday morning the tentative deal had been realized.

The five-year pact, retroactive to 2020, includes the 24% raises and $5,000 in bonuses that a Presidential Emergency Board recommended this summer. 

Railroads also agreed to ease their strict attendance policies to address some of the unions’ concerns about working conditions. From now on, rail workers will be able to take unpaid days off for doctor’s appointments without being penalized under railroad attendance rules. 

Previously, workers would lose points under the attendance systems that the BNSF and Union Pacific railways had adopted, and they could be disciplined if they lost all their points.

The change in the attendance rules was a major sticking point in the negotiations and a significant victory for the unions.

However, it’s still up to the unions’ rank and file members to decide if the deal is good enough to get their approval.

Union members are expected to vote on the tentative agreement after a post-ratification cooling off period of several weeks.

A number of the negotiators said they were pleasantly surprised to be invited to the White House at the conclusion of their talks, and even President Biden acknowledged “they should be home in bed.”

“Frankly, I’m surprised they’re still standing,” he joked.

Still, the president believed it was important to thank both business and labor for their efforts — and willingness — to broker a deal.

The threat of a nationwide freight rail strike came at a delicate time for the president and members of his party —  just weeks ahead of crucial midterm elections that could define the remaining two years of his first term in the White House.

In recent weeks, momentum has been on the Democrats’ side, making it entirely possible the party will increase its hold on power in the Senate and maybe even pick up a few governors seats.

Had a strike occurred and the economy tank so close to people turning up at the polls, it’s entirely likely the party’s hold on Congress would have evaporated.

As Biden finished speaking and turned back toward the Oval Office, a reporter shouted a question about grocery prices being up “more than 13% this year.”

“Rail’s moving and it’s not going to go up,” Biden said as he waved to the crowd and headed through the office doors.

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

In The News

Health

Voting

Labor

November 30, 2022
by Dan McCue
House Passes Legislation to Avert Nationwide Rail Strike

WASHINGTON — The House passed legislation Wednesday to avert a nationwide rail strike, the first step in avoiding an economic... Read More

WASHINGTON — The House passed legislation Wednesday to avert a nationwide rail strike, the first step in avoiding an economic calamity at the height of the holiday shopping season. The chamber passed the main resolution in a 290-137 vote, sending it to the Senate for consideration... Read More

Biden Calls on Congress to Head Off Potential Rail Strike

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — President Joe Biden on Monday asked Congress to intervene and block a railroad strike before next month’s deadline... Read More

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — President Joe Biden on Monday asked Congress to intervene and block a railroad strike before next month’s deadline in the stalled contract talks, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said lawmakers would take up legislation this week to impose the deal that unions agreed to... Read More

November 21, 2022
by Tom Ramstack
Railroad Unions Reject Labor Contract in a Potential Blow to US Economy

WASHINGTON — Railroad unions that rejected a proposed labor contract on Monday are threatening the nation’s economy as the Christmas... Read More

WASHINGTON — Railroad unions that rejected a proposed labor contract on Monday are threatening the nation’s economy as the Christmas season approaches. The “no” vote by the unions sets the stage for a strike as soon as Dec. 9, unless Congress intervenes to stop it. Economists... Read More

Starbucks Workers Strike at More Than 100 US Stores

Starbucks workers at more than 100 U.S. stores are on strike Thursday in their largest labor action since a campaign... Read More

Starbucks workers at more than 100 U.S. stores are on strike Thursday in their largest labor action since a campaign to unionize the company’s stores began late last year. The walkouts coincide with Starbucks’ annual Red Cup Day, when the company gives free reusable cups to... Read More

October 11, 2022
by Dan McCue
Rail Union Rejects Tentative Deal Brokered by White House, Possible Strike Looms

WASHINGTON — A union representing about 12,000 railroad workers voted down a tentative contract on Monday, setting the stage for... Read More

WASHINGTON — A union representing about 12,000 railroad workers voted down a tentative contract on Monday, setting the stage for a possible nationwide strike ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. Four unions have ratified contracts based on the agreement brokered by the White House last month, while... Read More

September 15, 2022
by Dan McCue
Biden Calls Tentative Railway Deal ‘A Big Win for America’

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden made a last-minute addition to his public schedule on Thursday, inviting railroad and union leaders... Read More

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden made a last-minute addition to his public schedule on Thursday, inviting railroad and union leaders to the White House to celebrate their averting a nationwide strike that could have crippled the U.S. economy. Many of those invited to the Oval Office... Read More

News From The Well