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Biden administration says ‘tentative’ deal reached to avoid national rail strike


The Biden Administration announced rail companies and unions reached a “tentative” agreement to void a national rail strike following an ongoing labor dispute.

On Thursday morning, the White House said in a statement that “better pay, improved working conditions, and peace of mind around their health care costs” will be given to rail workers.

President Joe Biden said in a statement the tentative deal “will keep our critical rail system working and avoid disruption of our economy.”

An Amtrak worker opens a door on a train at Union Station in Los Angeles, as stoppages are announced on Sept. 14, 2022.
An Amtrak worker opens a door on a train at Union Station in Los Angeles, as stoppages are announced on Sept. 14, 2022.
AP

Twelve unions representing 115,000 workers agreed to the deal.

“The tentative agreement reached tonight is an important win for our economy and the American people,” Biden announced. “These rail workers will get better pay, improved working conditions, and peace of mind around their health care costs: all hard-earned.”

An Amtrak passenger train departs Chicago in the early evening on Sept. 14, 2022 in Chicago.
An Amtrak passenger train departs Chicago in the early evening on Sept. 14, 2022 in Chicago.
AP

“The agreement is also a victory for railway companies 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,” Biden added.

The details of the tentative agreement have not been shared.

According to The Association of American Railroads trade group, a strike would have cost the economy an estimated $2 billion a day

Just hours before an agreement was reached, Amtrak canceled all of its long-distance passenger trains.

While Amtrak workers are not involved in the ongoing labor dispute, over 21,000 of track miles outside of the northeast corridor — Boston to Washington D.C. — are owned and maintained by freight companies.

The deals of the “tentative” agreement were based on recommendations by the Presidential Emergency Board, appointed by Biden this summer, that called for 24% raises and $5,000 in bonuses in a five-year deal, retroactive to 2020.

The unions that represent conductors and engineers who drive trains have held out hoping the railroads address additional issues, such as their strict attendance policy making it difficult to take time off. They have said that the railroad’s decision to slash its workforce by one-third over the last six years has made the job even harder.

A Chicago area Metra commuter train headed to the city's Union Station passes an Amtrak passenger train on Sept. 14, 2022.
A Chicago area Metra commuter train headed to the city’s Union Station passes an Amtrak passenger train on Sept. 14, 2022.
AP

They have demanded the railroads provide unpaid leave time so workers could tend to their personal business, such as doctor’s appointments, without being penalized.

The strike would have put additional strain on the already log-jammed supply chains and could escalate already high inflation costs.

Even a brief shutdown would have dramatically disrupted the shipping of fuel, chemicals, foods, cars, coal, and other imported goods and products.



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