Washington, Nov 29 (EFE).- President Joe Biden on Tuesday warned that a railroad strike could put the US economy “at risk” and asked Congress to intervene before a work stoppage arises, a situation that could begin on Dec. 9.
Biden made those requests at the start of a White House meeting with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders.
“During the ratification votes, the Secretaries of Labor, Agriculture, and Transportation have been in regular touch with labor leaders and management. They believe that there is no path to resolve the dispute at the bargaining table and have recommended that we seek Congressional action,” Biden said in a statement on Monday, referring to union votes on a tentative agreement struck between some railroad unions and the industry in September.
“As a proud pro-labor President, I am reluctant to override the ratification procedures and the views of those who voted against the agreement. But in this case – where the economic impact of a shutdown would hurt millions of other working people and families – I believe Congress must use its powers to adopt this deal,” he added.
And on Tuesday, Biden, seated at the head of a rectangular table with congressional leaders on each side, said: “Between now and Christmas in terms of legislation … there’s a lot to do, including resolving the train strike,” adding “It’s not an easy call but I think we have to do it. The economy is at risk.”
Seated with the president at the table were House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
This year, Biden has intervened on several occasions in negotiations between the railroad industry and the unions.
With the help of the government, the two parties in September reached a tentative accord including a 24 percent pay hike for railroad workers as well as contract clauses to allow them to take sick days or respond to family emergencies without being penalized, in contrast to the current system, which does not include any sick days.
Workers in eight unions in the railroad sector have voted in recent months in favor of that agreement, but four unions have rejected it and, in recent days, they have threatened to call a strike stating on Dec. 9, just before the Christmas season.
Given that situation, the president on Monday evening urged Congress to intervene in the dispute and asked lawmakers to pass a bill to impose the tentative accord that was reached in September, something that the legislature has the power to do as per the 1926 Railway Labor Act.
On Tuesday, Biden met at the White House with congressional leaders to align their points of view and work out a strategy to deal with the situation.
Pelosi, a Democrat, on Monday evening announced in a communique that she would put a bill to halt the strike up for a vote in the lower house of Congress.
An interruption in railroad transport on the national level would negatively affect the US economy and would surely cause more interruptions and delays in the supply chain.
If unions stage a railroad strike, 765,000 workers could find themselves without work within two weeks, the White House estimates.