Dec 1, 2022 - Economy

Senate passes legislation to avert nationwide rail strike

U.S. President Joe Biden meets with Congressional Leaders to discuss legislative priorities through the end of 2022, at the White House on November 29, 2022

President Biden meets with Congressional leaders to discuss legislative priorities on Nov. 29. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The Senate on Thursday passed legislation to avert a national rail strike that threatened to pose a major economic disruption.

Driving the news: The legislation now heads to President Biden, who is expected to sign it swiftly into law after urging Congress to take it up.

  • The Senate also on Thursday rejected a separate measure to include seven days of paid sick leave for workers as part of the tentative agreement to avert the national rail strike.
  • The failure to pass paid sick leave provisions is a loss for many union members and progressive lawmakers who've been vocal on the issue.
  • The Senate vote came days before Dec. 9, the date railway workers could strike if an agreement between freight rail companies and their unions was not reached.

The big picture: The House earlier this week voted 290-137 to force rail workers to agree to a Biden-brokered labor deal.

  • The House also passed legislation to agree to seven paid days of sick leave, the fate of which remained uncertain heading into the Senate vote.
  • Congressional leaders met with President Biden at the White House earlier this week, where he warned that a nationwide strike "would hurt millions of other working people and families."

Between the lines: Some lawmakers, including progressives, had previously signaled their opposition to the tentative deal to avert the rail strike in the absence of a deal on paid sick leave.

  • "At a time of record profits in the rail industry, it's unacceptable that rail workers have ZERO guaranteed paid sick days," Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt wrote in a tweet.

What they're saying: Union leaders had urged the Senate to pass the legislation — including the paid sick bill.

  • "If Congress feels it has the duty and obligation to take away railroad workers' right to strike, then Congress also has the duty and obligation to provide these workers a very basic protection against economic harm ... by also legislating paid sick leave for all railroad workers," Peter Kennedy, director of strategic coordination research at BMWED, the third-largest union, which voted down the contract in October, said before the vote.

What's next: Biden on Thursday said he would continue to fight for paid leave, but it's unclear what the legislative path forward will look like.

  • Meanwhile, advocates say that the attention the issue got in this fight has breathed some new life into the issue.

Editor's note: This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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