President Biden announced Thursday morning that on the day of talks at the US Department of Labor to stop the national rail strike,, a deal was found. In a statement, President Biden said, “The tentative agreement reached tonight is a significant victory for our economy and the American people. It is a victory for the thousands of railroad workers who worked tirelessly through the pandemic to ensure that May America’s families and communities be blessed. The delivery of what has kept us going through these difficult years.”
Mr Biden said US railroad workers would get “better pay, better working conditions, and peace of mind around their health care costs: all hard-earned,” thanks to the agreement, which he said was “better for railway companies.” It was also a victory for one that would be able to retain and recruit more workers for an industry that will continue to be the backbone of the American economy for decades to come.”
Ed O’Keefe, senior White House correspondent for CBS News, says the deal will now go to the unions for a vote to finalize the deal.
A source familiar with the talks told O’Keefe that the negotiating parties had agreed to a “post-ratification cooling-off period” of several weeks, to ensure that if a vote was held for any reason. If it does not succeed, it is not immediately off the rails.
Labor Secretary Marty Walsh oversaw a marathon negotiating session at the Labor Department on Wednesday that led to a settlement, and CBS News learned that President Biden made an “important call” in talks Wednesday evening around 9 p.m. local time. as described.
Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said in a tweet that after “more than 20 consecutive hours of negotiations” at the Labor Department, “railway companies and union negotiators came to a tentative agreement that balances the needs of workers, businesses and our nation’s economy.” Is. “
Announced a few hours after AmtrakThe strike comes amid threats from Thursday that could disrupt not only passenger and freight services, but also the US economy. Rail companies warned that the strike could cut productivity by $2 billion a day.
The root of the problem was a labor dispute between the railroad companies and their unionized workforce. Had the two sides not reached an agreement, the strike should have started only after midnight on Friday.
A Labor Department spokesman told CBS News Wednesday evening that dinner had been ordered and talks were underway in Washington between federal officials, railroad officials and railroad workers union leaders. Mr Biden’s statement about the deal came at around 5 am on Thursday.
Without the deal, the strike would have begun on Friday at the end of a 30-day “cooling-off” period mandated under the terms of the Railway Labor Act, which regulates contract negotiations in the rail and airline industries.
It was the Association of American Railroads that warned that stopping freight trains could cost the US economy more than $2 billion a day. If the shutdown lasts for more than a few days, its impact will be felt by millions of consumers, as it will disrupt shipping of almost all retail products, coal, other fuels and manufacturing components.
Experts say that passengers will also be in bad luck, as many passenger trains run on goods tracks which will be rendered useless in the strike.
In the past, most recently in 1986, Congress has worked to end railroad strikes. If there had not been an agreement this week, both houses could have passed — and the president would have signed — a joint resolution effectively allowing rail workers on conditions set by an emergency board set up by the White House earlier this year. was forced to work under The US Chamber of Congress had urged Congress to stand up and be prepared to intervene ahead of Thursday morning’s announcement of the deal.
In a statement praising Mr Biden and the Secretary of Labor for their roles in the negotiations, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi confirmed that Congress was “ready to take action to ensure the uninterrupted operation of essential transportation services … “.
Pelosi said, “Led by the Transport and Infrastructure Committee, the House drafted and reviewed the legislation, so that we are prepared to act in accordance with Section 10 of the Railway Labor Act. Thankfully this action may not be necessary.” “
CBS News’ Steven Portnoy contributed to this report.