President Joe Biden is expected to sign legislation that will avert a freight rail strike after Congress approved the legislation, according to CNN. The legislation, which passed the Senate 80 to 15 on Dec. 1, imposes a labor agreement between workers and rail companies that was tentatively reached on Sept. 24, 2022. That deal offered a 24% wage increase over the five-year period from 2020 through 2024, with a 14.1% raise taking effect immediately.
Four of the 12 affected railway unions had rejected the deal back in September, leading Biden to call on Congress to intervene after talks between workers and rail companies stalled. Congress ended the crisis by taking action under the Railway Labor Act of 1926, which enables it to step in and impose a contract under which both sides will have to operate in order to prevent stoppages.
The rail unions had planned to strike on Dec. 9 if an agreement was not yet reached. The strike would have shut down approximately 30% of the country’s freight shipments, and if it became prolonged it could have caused shortages of items from food to gasoline.
“Working together, we have spared this country a Christmas catastrophe in our grocery stores, in our workplaces and in our communities,” Biden said in a statement. “I know that many in Congress shared my reluctance to override the union ratification procedures. But in this case, the consequences of a shutdown were just too great for working families all across the country.”
While the primary legislation passed, the Senate also voted down an amendment that would have added seven days of paid sick leave for rail workers in a 52 to 43 vote.