ILMA Newsroom

Congress Ends Threat of Nationwide Rail Strike

Congress Ends Threat of Nationwide Rail Strike

Congress has intervened to force rail unions to adopt the tentative labor agreement mediated by the Biden administration this past summer, effectively averting a shutdown of the nation’s freight rail system on December 9. President Biden, who urgently asked lawmakers earlier in the week to act to avert the dire economic damage a rail strike could cause, said he will sign the measure into law when it reaches his desk. This is the 18th time since the enactment of the Railway Labor Act in 1926, and the first time since 1992, that Congress has stepped in to avert a railroad work stoppage.

While passing the measure to implement the labor deal, the Senate defeated yesterday a second House-passed bill that would have given union workers seven additional paid workdays. The paid sick leave had emerged as the sticking point for the four out of 12 rail unions that rejected the tentative agreement.

“A rail strike would have been catastrophic for ILMA members, their customers and all Americans,” said ILMA CEO Holly Alfano. “We appreciate the hard work of the railroads and their employees to keep the trains running, especially as the nation’s supply chains work to restabilize, and we commend Congress for quickly approving a legislative solution.”

The five-year agreement replaces a contract that expired in 2019. Under the new agreement, which runs from 2000 to 2024, railroad workers will receive a 24% increase in wages over the contract period, an additional paid day off, a freeze in healthcare deductibles and co-pays, and the ability to attend medical appointments without penalty. Those workers who have been working under the expired contract will receive back pay.

“While Congress has put the labor contract to rest,” Alfano continued, “ILMA will continue to work to address freight rail service problems that its members face every day, including pushing for greater access to competitive rail service through reciprocal switching.”