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US Congress approves bill to prevent rail strike

Since Monday, when President Biden asked Congress to intervene to prevent a rail strike that he warned “would devastate our economy,” the US House of Representatives and now the Senate have passed a bill to force the four of 12 unions that did not ratify their tentative agreements with the major US freight railroads to accept those agreements.

The House had also passed a second bill to provide workers with seven paid sick days, but the Senate rejected it.

Teamsters President Sean O’Brien criticised the Senate’s rejection of the sick leave bill. He wrote on Twitter: “Rail carriers make record profits. Rail workers get zero paid sick days. Is this OK? Paid sick leave is a basic human right. This system is failing.”

The approved first bill will now go to President Biden to be signed into law.

The new contract provides workers a 24% compounded pay increase over five years and five annual $1,000 lump-sum payments. This was based on recommendations from the Presidential Emergency Board established in July to help resolve the ongoing dispute between the freight rail carriers and the unions.

Although a strike – estimated to cost the US economy $2bn a day – would have started on December 9, the railroads were planning to stop accepting hazardous-goods shipments as early as this weekend. The president and Congress had that in mind as they pushed legislation through this week.

Credit Splash247 by Kim Biggar

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