President Signs Measure to Avert Nationwide Rail Shutdown
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden moved quickly Friday morning to sign H.J. Res. 100 into law and thereby avert a nationwide rail shutdown that many have said would have caused a devastating $2 billion-per-day hit to the U.S. economy.
The president signed the bill shortly after 11 a.m. in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.
Joining the president at the singing were Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
“On Tuesday, I met with Congressional leaders from both parties and told them that Congress needed to move quickly to avert a rail shutdown and economic catastrophe for our nation,” Biden said in a statement released after the Senate voted overwhelmingly to pass the measure on Thursday afternoon.
The Senate vote was 80-15. It came one day after the House voted to impose the agreement.
“Now, I want to thank congressional leadership who supported the bill and the overwhelming majority of senators and representatives in both parties who voted to avert a rail shutdown,” he said.
“Congress’ decisive action ensures that we will avoid the impending, devastating economic consequences for workers, families and communities across the country,” the president continued.
“Communities will maintain access to clean drinking water. Farmers and ranchers will continue to be able to bring food to market and feed their livestock. And hundreds of thousands of Americans in a number of industries will keep their jobs.
“Working together, we have spared this country a Christmas catastrophe in our grocery stores, in our workplaces and in our communities,” he added.
The measure binds rail companies and workers to a proposed settlement that was reached between the rail companies and union leaders in September.
That settlement had been rejected by four of the 12 unions involved, creating the possibility of a strike beginning Dec. 9.
The Senate voted shortly after Walsh and Buttigieg emphasized to Democratic senators at a Capitol meeting that rail companies would soon begin shutting down operations, well before a potential strike would begin.
Critics of the proposed contract said it did not include enough paid sick leave for rail workers.
Biden has said he supports legislation that would require paid leave for all American workers, but that he can’t get support from Republican lawmakers for mandatory paid time off for medical and family reasons.
“I know that many in Congress shared my reluctance to override the union ratification procedures,” Biden said on Thursday. “But in this case, the consequences of a shutdown were just too great for working families all across the country. And, the agreement will raise workers’ wages by 24%, increase health care benefits and preserve two-person crews.”
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