Biden signs rail agreement into law, thwarting strike
President Biden on Friday signed into law legislation to force a rail labor agreement, blocking workers from striking ahead of the busy holiday season.
Why it matters: Some railroad workers have argued the deal doesn't adequately address concerns over workplace conditions, most notably the lack of paid sick leave.
- Biden has said he was reluctant to override union votes but emphasized that a strike would pose a major economic disruption and called on Congress to step in.
- The provision's failure is a loss for many union members and progressive lawmakers who have slammed the fact that rail workers have no guaranteed paid sick days.
Between the lines: The rail workers' battle is emblematic of some of the most critical worker issues of the post-pandemic era — revolving not around money, per se, but worker leverage, quality of life and paid sick leave, Axios' Emily Peck writes.
- The contract was brokered by union leadership, and they had a tough time selling the deal to rank-and-file members. Many workers are angry about how they've been treated in recent years — particularly during the pandemic.
The other side: The White House pointed to elements of the deal that it views as a win for workers, including a 24% pay bump, no increase in health insurance costs and one additional day of paid time off.
What they're saying: "Our nation's rail system is literally the backbone of our supply chain," Biden said before signing the bill. "So much of what we rely on is delivered on rail."
- "Without freight rail, many of the U.S. industries would literally shut down," he added.
- Biden said he would continue to fight for paid sick leave.
The big picture: The bill caps off a tense few months during which the Biden administration has had to balance its pro-labor stance with the need to avoid an economically disastrous strike ahead of the holiday season.
Worth noting: The rail industry has been struggling with a worker shortage for months.