US freight rail workers may kick off a nationwide strike in early December after one of the country’s largest railroad unions voted to reject a contract deal brokered by the Biden administration. How could the forthcoming industrial action affect the US economy?

Much of the US economy may end up paralyzed ahead of the holiday season, as the 28,000-member SMART Transportation Division (SMART-TD) union voted down a compromise agreement mediated by the White House in September 2022 by 50.9%.

The deal was also rejected by the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen and International Brotherhood of Boilermakers.

Railroad workers have signaled their discontent over the contract’s lack of fully-paid sick leave and other scheduling requirements.

Even though eight unions have so far approved the contract, they have made it clear that if just one of 12 unions decides to opt for industrial action, the rest will join, thus bringing the country’s rail system to a standstill.

According to the US press, the deadline for an agreement with railroad workers is December 8, 2022. If no compromise is reached, the strike will go ahead.

A potential shutdown of the nation’s transport infrastructure could deal a further blow to the US economy, already hit by inflation and recession.

About 30% of the US freight moves by rail and the country’s economy could lose $2 billion a day if industrial action is launched, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

The strike could threaten all sorts of the nation’s shipments, starting with coal and ending with drinking water. Furthermore, US media has warned that commuter rail lines could be impacted as well.

These include Chicago’s commuter rail network Metra; Washington DC area MARC and VRE; Caltrain in the San Francisco Bay Area and Metrolink in Southern California. Amtrak and SEPTA are also expected to be affected.

Still, the US Congress can intervene and impose a contract on the railroads to block or stop a rail strike under the Railway Labor Act of 1926.

Let’s be clear – if the remaining unions do not accept an agreement, Congress should be prepared to act and avoid a disastrous $2 billion-a-day hit to our economy, stated AAR President and CEO Ian Jefferies.

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh appears to share a similar stance: even though he told the press that he would prefer to strike new agreements with the unions, he also noted that the US Congress would have to prevent the industrial action.

White House officials are also urging unions to reach an agreement prior to the December deadline, stressing that President Joe Biden had previously warned that a shutdown is unacceptable.

For their part, US rail unions are against any Congressional intervention and want to be allowed to strike in order to reach their objectives in future talks with industrial leaders, the US media remarked.

Some union leaders have drawn attention to the fact that the unfolding standoff could become a litmus test for the Democratic Party and the incumbent president.

It is believed that organized labor played an important role in helping the Democrats preserve the majority in the upper chamber during the November midterms.

Thus, any attempt to tighten the screws on railroad workers and nix the industrial action in the bud could be seen as a betrayal, according to the US left-leaning press.

Meanwhile, the Democrats might also need their unionist allies in 2024 to preserve their control of the White House. Unionists have made it clear that if they are defeated, an injury to one will be an injury to all.

Given that, the Biden administration and Democratic lawmakers have apparently found themselves on the horns of a dilemma:

The nationwide strike would be disastrous for the US economy and yet, on the other hand, their political image could be marred if they resort to tough action against the unions and the livelihood of the American people.

Sputnik / ABC Flash-Point Blog News 2022.

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Kidnapped by System
Kidnapped by System
24-11-22 22:22

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