A rail strike was averted after marathon talks reached an interim agreement

Washington, DC
CNN business

Unions and management reached a tentative deal early Thursday to avert a freight rail strike that threatened to disrupt U.S. supply chains and raise prices for many commodities.

The agreement with unions representing more than 50,000 engineers and managers was announced shortly after 5 a.m. in a White House statement that it called “an important victory for our economy and the American people.”

It came after 20 hours of talks between union leadership and railroad labor negotiators organized by Labor Secretary Marty Walsh. The meeting began on Wednesday morning, with the strike clock set to begin at 12:01 a.m. on Friday.

The agreement does not mean that the threat of a strike has completely disappeared. The agreement must be ratified by union members. But it’s good news for the wide range of businesses that depend on freight railroads to keep operating and for the broader U.S. economy. About 30% of the nation’s freight is moved by rail.

Few details of the deal have been released so far. But President Joe Biden’s statement indicated that the main issue that brought the country within a day of its first national rail strike in 30 years was the union’s side.

“This is a victory for the tens of thousands of railroad workers who worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to ensure that America’s families and communities got the delivery of what has carried us through these difficult years,” Biden’s statement said. “These railroad workers will receive better wages, better working conditions and peace of mind about health care costs – all hard-earned.”

The dispute centered on staff shortages and scheduling rules, which union leaders said had led to a fractured membership. Unions say the railroads require their members to be “on call” and ready to go to work seven days a week. The leadership of the two unions said their members would not accept a contract without changing these labor rules.

Biden described the deal as “a victory for railroad companies that will be able to retain and hire more workers for an industry that will continue to be the backbone of the American economy for decades to come.”

This is an important victory for Biden, who faced only bad options if no deal was reached. Sponsoring congressional action demanded by the business community to impose a contract on workers would have angered his supporters among unions. leave it Work stoppages play out the massive economic impact was threatened before the midterm elections.

Railroad workers are governed by a different labor law than most workers, which limits their freedom to strike and allows for more government intervention. In July, Biden issued an order preventing a strike at that time and created a committee, known as the Presidential Emergency Committee, to try to find a solution to the dispute.

It also established a 60-day rest period, unions could not strike and management could not lock out workers. That break was supposed to end early Friday.

– This is a developing story and will be updated.