Senate Republicans want Congress to step in, avoid rail strikes

  • Two Republicans in the Senate want Congress to step in and avert a shutdown of the nation’s railroads.
  • Senators Roger Wicker and Richard Burr want to force the railroads and unions to a deal after Friday.
  • The American Chamber of Commerce estimates that a rail shutdown will cost the economy $2 billion a day.

As railroad workers move toward a potential strike over working conditions within days, some Republicans are aiming to force them into a deal.

Currently, unionized rail workers are in negotiations with carriers for a new contract with an emphasis on better sick leave, with workers prepared to strike on Friday if they do not reach an agreement. A strike could prove costly, with the pro-business US Chamber of Commerce estimating that a shutdown would cost the economy $2 billion a day

Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina and Roger Wicker of Mississippi introduced a resolution Wednesday that would adopt recommendations from a presidentially appointed panel aimed at resolving the labor dispute. They want Congress to step in if the unions don’t voluntarily agree to the contract by the end of this week, providing for wage increases — which, the Washington Post reports, do not affect workers’ demands to stop being penalized for sickness or family absences.

“There are mechanisms that have been in the law for a long time to allow Congress to step in and prevent the economic disaster that will follow,” Wicker said Wednesday. “I think it’s time to invoke the interim law.”

Wicker said he opposed extending the Friday deadline for a deal. “This has been going on for three years,” he said.

The White House has sought to avert a strike, and the president reportedly called both unions and management and administration to brace for potential fallout from a shutdown. Meanwhile, Amtrak has canceled some cross-country routes to avoid potential strike disruption.

– The workers are angry, a spokesperson for the union told CNBC. “They will have movement on the attendance policy and not be afraid to take a sick day or vacation day without fear of dismissal. There will be no ratification unless this is addressed.”

In a chirpingAFL-CIO President Liz Shuler wrote that “railroad driving is a demanding, tireless career” and that workers deserve dignity, respect and quality of life.

“It’s time to end the corporate greed that has come at the expense of workers’ livelihoods for too long,” Shuler said.

The tide could be turning toward a strike, with several of the 12 unions involved in negotiations voting down the tentative agreement.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Labor said negotiations would continue to avoid a strike. “Secretary Walsh continues to lead discussions at the Department of Labor between the railroads and the unions. The parties are negotiating in good faith and have committed to staying at the table today,” the spokesperson told Insider.

The White House seems determined to broker a deal. “This is an issue that can and should be resolved between the railroads and the unions, not by Congress. In fact, the parties are at the table right now,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One earlier. Wednesday.

For now, at least one key Democrat wanted to avoid a congressional intervention. “I’ve reached out to the unions. I think there needs to be something about sick days and the railroads need to come to the table,” Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio told Insider.

Brown declined to say whether he would oppose Wicker’s measure, but added that the White House is in the driver’s seat in negotiations.

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