‘No way’: Biden calls on Congress to avoid railroad strike

The development came two months after Labor Secretary Marty Walsh held an all-night negotiating session at his agency’s headquarters that resulted in a tentative agreement, temporarily defusing the threat of a strike. But since then, members of three of the 12 unions have voted to reject the deal.

On Monday, Biden asked Congress to act “without any modification or delay” to impose the September settlement.

In a statement, Biden called himself a “proud pro-Labour president” and said he was reluctant to recommend congressional intervention, but the economic consequences of inaction were too great. He also included a pointed message to Democratic lawmakers who might be inclined to side with workers who oppose the deal.

“Some members of Congress want to change the deal to make it better for either workers or management. No matter how well-meaning, any change would risk delaying and causing a debilitating shutdown. The deal was made in good faith by both parties,” he said.

While a bitter pill for workers to swallow, enacting the deal would end the cliffhanger deadlines that have loomed every few weeks since the summer and allow all sorts of industries that depend freight rail shipments to withdraw from doomsday preparations. Rail freight carries many bulk goods, including grain for people and livestock, energy supplies, and even chlorine to ensure communities have clean water supplies.

Nodding to the looming holiday season, Biden said, “We cannot let our firm belief in better outcomes for working people rob working people of the benefits of the deal they made and rush this nation into a devastating closure of rail freight”.

Shortly after Biden’s statement, Pelosi released one of his own, endorsing the decision and promising to introduce legislation in the House this week. Given that key GOP lawmakers have endorsed this approach, it’s likely that any legislation would have enough support to defeat Democratic objectors.

Senate Majority Leader chuck schumerThe office could not immediately be reached for comment.

Earlier on Monday, two associations representing petrol station owners warned on Monday that a freight rail closure, which could occur as early as December 9, could jeopardize their ability to keep fuel in stock across the country.

“If a work stoppage were to occur, it would immediately disrupt the ability of fuel distributors to provide a reliable and stable supply of fuel to American consumers and to commercial fleets nationwide,” said Tiffany Wlazlowski Neuman, spokeswoman. from NATSO, which represents plaza and truck stop owner travel.

During a press briefing on Monday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre neither confirmed nor denied Washington Post report that President Joe Biden will ask Congress to intervene to prevent railroad workers from striking or railroads from locking out workers.

She said she had nothing to report on this but that the administration was in “regular communication with Congress” and that “once the president makes a decision on this, if he makes a decision at this subject, you will hear it”. .”

She noted that Biden was “directly involved in the process and was engaged with his team” and Congress “in the event that solving the issue fell to them, as it has 18 times over the past 60 years.” .

NATSO, in conjunction with SIGMA, a trade group for fuel distributors, has warned that the availability of ethanol and diesel exhaust fluid could be disrupted if a strike or lockout closes the country’s railways. .

All diesel machines built with more than 74 horsepower must have a system to reduce pollution, and this system uses diesel exhaust fluid, which is made from water and urea. Sixty to 70% of ethanol transport is done by rail. It cannot be transported through pipelines due to its alcohol content.

“The U.S. economy in many ways revolves around transportation fuel, and if the components needed for that fuel can’t get to where they’re needed, the market impact will be drastic,” Neuman said in a statement. . “A prolonged railroad shutdown will limit the nation’s fuel supply by disrupting the availability of ethanol, which is often a critical component of gasoline, and diesel exhaust fluid, which most heavy-duty trucks need to function.”

The railways and the four unions that rejected the latest contract offers have until December 9 to negotiate a new deal. If an agreement cannot be reached in the next few days, the railways are likely to preemptively stop the shipment of sensitive materials such as ethanol and urea so that they are not blocked once the stoppage occurs .

Alex Daugherty contributed to this report.

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