President Biden announced early Thursday morning that days of negotiations at the US Department of Labor to avert a nationwide railroad strike,, had agreed. In a statement, Mr. Biden said that “the tentative agreement reached tonight is a significant victory for our economy and the American people. It is a victory for tens of thousands of railroad workers who have worked tirelessly during the pandemic. to ensure that American families and communities received deliveries of what kept us going through these difficult years.”
Mr Biden said American railroad workers would “get better pay, better working conditions and peace of mind about their hard-earned healthcare costs: all hard-earned” from the deal, which he said was “ also a victory 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 deal will now go to the unions for a vote to finalize the deal. Union presidents representing railway workers said the breakthrough provides “the highest general wage increases over the life of the agreement in more than 45 years”.
“For the first time, our unions were able to secure negotiated contract language exempting time off for certain medical events from carrier attendance policies,” the union leaders said.
A source familiar with the labor negotiations told CBS News Senior White House Correspondent Ed O’Keefe that the parties to the negotiations had agreed to a “post-ratification cooling off period” of several weeks, to s ensure that if a vote fails for any reason, there is no immediate shutdown of the rail.
Labor Secretary Marty Walsh oversaw a marathon negotiating session Wednesday at the Labor Department that led to the deal, and CBS News has learned that Mr. Biden made what one source described as a “call crucial” in the negotiations around 9 p.m. local time on Wednesday evening. .
Walsh said in a tweet that “after more than 20 straight hours of negotiations” at the Labor Department, “railroaders and union negotiators have reached a tentative agreement that balances the needs of workers, businesses and society. economy of our country.
The announcement came hours after Amtrakfrom Thursday amid the threat of a strike, which could have disrupted not just passenger and cargo services, but the U.S. economy. The rail companies had warned that the strike could result in a loss of productivity of $2 billion a day.
In light of the agreement announced Thursday morning, Amtrak said it was “working to quickly reinstate ‘cancelled trains’ and reaching out to affected customers to accommodate the earliest available departures.”
The root of the problem was a labor dispute between the railroad companies and their unionized workforce. If the two parties had not reached an agreement, the strike would have started after midnight on Friday.
A Labor Department spokesperson told CBS News Wednesday night that dinner has been ordered and talks in Washington between federal officials, railroad leaders and union leaders for railroad workers are underway. Mr Biden’s statement regarding the deal came around 5 a.m. Thursday.
Without the deal, the strike would have started on Friday at the end of a 30-day “cooling off” period mandated by the Railway Labor Act, which governs contract negotiations in the rail and airline industries.
It was the Association of American Railroads that warned that stopping freight trains could cost the US economy more than $2 billion a day. If a shutdown were to last more than a few days, the impact would likely be felt by millions of consumers, as it would disrupt the shipment of virtually all retail products, coal, other fuels and manufacturing components.
Commuters would also be out of luck as many passenger trains run on freight tracks which would be slowed down in the event of a strike, experts say.
In the past, most recently in 1986, Congress acted to end railroad strikes. Had no deal been reached this week, the two chambers could have passed — and the president would have signed — a joint resolution effectively requiring railroad workers to continue working under terms set by an emergency board created by the White House. earlier this year. The US House of Congress had urged Congress to be ready to intervene ahead of Thursday morning’s announcement of the deal.
In a statement praising Mr. Biden and the Secretary of Labor for their role in the negotiations, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed that Congress has “stands ready to take action … to ensure the uninterrupted operation of security services.” essential transportation.
“Led by the Transport and Infrastructure Committee, the House prepared and had the legislation considered, so that we are ready to act, in accordance with Section 10 of the Railway Labor Act, Pelosi said. “Fortunately, this action may not be necessary.”
Steven Portnoy of CBS News contributed to this report.