A tentative deal between unions representing railroad workers and a group of the largest railroad freight carriers in the United States is being hailed as a major victory for the Biden administration after the last-minute deal averted a strike that would have crippled workers. supply chains across the country. .
In a statement, President Joe Biden said the deal – which must be approved by unions – is “a victory for tens of thousands of railroad workers who have worked tirelessly during the pandemic to ensure families and American communities are receiving deliveries of what has kept us.” during these difficult years” and will ensure that workers receive “railroad workers will enjoy better pay, better working conditions and peace of mind about their health costs”.
“The deal is also a win for the railroads who will be able to retain and recruit more workers for an industry that will continue to be part of the backbone of the American economy for decades to come,” the president added.
Mr Biden spoke about the deal alongside White House Rose Garden negotiators on Thursday. He said the deal was “a great victory for America” and a way to recognize the tireless work of railway workers during the “dark and uncertain early days” of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Together, we have reached an agreement – you have reached an agreement – that will keep our critical rail system running and prevent disruption to our economy,” Biden said.
The chairman added that the agreement is a “validation” of his long-held belief that unions and management “can work together for the benefit of all”.
“With unemployment still at an all-time high amid signs of progress in cutting costs, this agreement allows us to continue to build a better America with an economy that really works for workers and their families,” he said. he declares.
The National Carriers Conference Committee – the industry group representing freight carriers in negotiations – said it was “pleased to announce” the tentative agreement between its members and the three largest railroad unions representing around 60 000 workers: Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters; the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transport Workers – Transport Division; and the Brotherhood of Railway Signalmen.
The carrier group thanked the union leadership teams “for their professionalism and hard work during the bargaining process” and paid tribute to Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttiegieg and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for their assistance in reaching an agreement.
The new agreement came after marathon negotiations between the unions, the NCCC and officials from the US Departments of Labor and Transportation at the Department of Labor headquarters.
An administration official said The Independent the talks lasted long into the night, with Mr. Walsh – a longtime member of the union – leading the negotiations and Mr. Buttigieg working on the phone throughout. The official said Mr Biden had called for negotiations around 9 p.m. Wednesday evening to declare a possible shutdown of US railroads unacceptable and to urge both sides to find room for an agreement.
At 2 a.m. Thursday, Mr. Walsh phoned the White House to let officials know there appeared to be an agreement between the railroads and the unions. The parties had until 12:01 a.m. Friday to avoid a strike.
Mr Biden greeted participants in the negotiations in the Oval Office on Thursday and said it “feels good” to have a deal.
“Twenty hours straight and I want to thank the companies and the workers,” he said.
A significant portion of the U.S. economy depends on the freight rail system, and a strike by railroad workers reportedly halted the movement of goods by rail across the United States, leading to shortages, possible layoffs, and higher prices for a period of inflation at levels not seen since the 1980s. The specter of a strike has also led commuter rail services to cancel service across the United States, as most commuter rail services rely on the same tracks and railways as freight services.
Amtrak, the state-owned company that runs interstate rail service in the United States, said it was “working quickly” to restore service it canceled before the potential strike deadline.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the deal, which has yet to be approved by unions, “good news for our nation’s economy, our security and the well-being of the American people.”
Ms. Pelosi also praised Mr. Biden “for his personal involvement and insistence on resolution” and Mr. Walsh for leading the last-minute talks.
Ohio State Senator Kenny Yuo, Democratic Caucus Leader in the Buckeye State Upper House, took to Twitter to thank Mr Biden for “showing the respect that has been refused for so long” to railway workers.
“To my sisters and brothers who work in the rail industry, thank you for all you do and for your patience which has really been pushed to the limit,” he added.