House to take up bill to avoid rail strike this week at Biden’s urging | TheFencePost.com
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House to take up bill to avoid rail strike this week at Biden’s urging

Biden
Biden-RFP-120522
President Biden late Monday called on Congress to pass legislation immediately to adopt the tentative agreement between railroad workers and operators that was approved by labor and management negotiators in September “without any modifications or delay — to avert a potentially crippling national rail shutdown.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement that the House this week would “take up a bill adopting the tentative agreement — with no poison pills or changes to the negotiated terms — and send it to the Senate.”
Several of the railroad labor unions plan to go on strike in early December if an agreement is not reached, but it is not clear what will happen in the Senate.
Biden
Biden-RFP-120522
In a statement, Biden noted that the deal “provides a historic 24% pay raise for rail workers. It provides improved health care benefits. And it provides the ability of operating craft workers to take unscheduled leave for medical needs.”
“Since that time, the majority of the unions in the industry have voted to approve the deal.“
During the ratification votes, the secretaries of labor, agriculture, and transportation have been in regular touch with labor leaders and management. They believe that there is no path to resolve the dispute at the bargaining table and have recommended that we seek Congressional action.
“Let me be clear: a rail shutdown would devastate our economy. Without freight rail, many U.S. industries would shut down. My economic advisers report that as many as 765,000 Americans — many union workers themselves — could be put out of work in the first two weeks alone. Communities could lose access to chemicals necessary to ensure clean drinking water. Farms and ranches across the country could be unable to feed their livestock.
“As a proud pro-labor president, I am reluctant to override the ratification procedures and the views of those who voted against the agreement. But in this case — where the economic impact of a shutdown would hurt millions of other working people and families — I believe Congress must use its powers to adopt this deal.”
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said late Monday, “I take seriously overriding the ratification procedures and the views of those who voted against the agreement.”
“But in this case — where the economic impact of a shutdown would hurt American agriculture and millions of other working people and families — Congress must use its powers to adopt this deal. There is no time to waste on political gamesmanship or the search for a more perfect resolution.
“I join the president in calling on Congress to quickly pass legislation adopting the tentative agreement between railroad workers and operators — without any modifications or delay — to avert a potentially crippling national rail shutdown.“
The U.S. food and agricultural industry relies heavily on rail networks for the transport of inputs and raw materials and for taking products to market. A rail shutdown would have significant and long-lasting effects on some sectors of American food and agriculture and could be devastating to parts of our economy.”
Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, said, “We applaud President Biden and his administration for recognizing the severe consequences a railroad shutdown would impose on agriculture and the broader economy and calling for an immediate resolution.”
“As mentioned below, an actual rail strike would halt economic activity, but even the threat of a strike will halt economic activity. Agriculture cannot thrive without a predictable and reliable supply chain, of which our rail industry is an integral part.
“Obviously, an actual rail shutdown is the least desirable option, but even a scenario in which negotiation deadlines and potential strike dates continue to be temporarily extended into the future would increase uncertainty and impose hardship.
“Agriculture will struggle to succeed in such an environment. A train transporting soybeans or other agricultural products is a sophisticated transaction involving significant volume, distance, and expense. Those transactions are less likely to occur if our rail system does not provide the certainty that it will connect agricultural shippers with domestic and international customers.”
“We affirm the president’s preference that the contract negotiations be fully conducted and resolved between the two parties.
“As mentioned below, our desire has been for both railroads and rail unions to arrive at an agreement that is beneficial to both sides. However, with the current impasse and the increased potential for a shutdown to occur, the likely consequences to agriculture and the entire economy have resulted in the increased urging of our national leadership to intervene.
“We concur with President Biden’s recommendation that Congress should act in a bipartisan manner to provide resolution to this dispute without further delay.”
National Grain and Feed Association President and CEO Mike Seyfert said, “We commend President Biden for calling on Congress to act immediately to prevent a rail shutdown that would hurt the U.S. agricultural and broader economy. And we thank Speaker Pelosi for responding with urgency to this critical supply chain threat.”
“The NGFA represents more than 1,000 grain, feed, processing, exporting and other grain-related companies that rely on rail transportation to move U.S. grain and grain products,” Seyfert said.
“A rail strike or lockout would lead to shutdowns or slowdowns of rail-dependent facilities resulting in harmful consequences to our national and global food security. NGFA urges Congress to deliver a bipartisan bill to the president’s desk well in advance of the Dec. 9 deadline.”
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