Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has said a potential nationwide rail strike is “not acceptable” after unions representing more than half of the country’s freight rail workers rejected new contracts and threatened a strike earlier in the day. from December.
“Our goal right now is to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Buttigieg said in an interview with NewsNation host Leland Vittert, which will air in its entirety on Tuesday night’s episode of On balance.
‘We are urging the parties to come to the table and do whatever it takes to avoid a shutdown. A closure is a scenario that is not acceptable’.
One of the largest rail unions rejected its agreement with management on Monday, joining three others that did not approve contracts over concerns about demanding schedules and a lack of paid sick time.
That raises the risk of a strike, which could start as early as December 5, and which industry groups estimate would cost the economy $2 billion a day and severely disrupt supply chains for food, raw materials, and more. premiums and retail products.
‘We are urging the parties to come to the table and do whatever it takes to avoid a shutdown. A shutdown is a scenario that is not acceptable,” Buttigieg said of a possible rail strike.
“It wouldn’t be good,” Buttigieg said of a possible rail strike. “We don’t have enough trucks, barges or ships in this country to make up for the rail network.”
Industry groups have said that while some companies would try to switch shipments to trucks, not enough are available.
The Association of American Railroads trade group estimated that an additional 467,000 trucks would be needed per day to handle the goods delivered by the network.
The largest of 12 railroad unions, which mostly represent drivers, rejected management’s latest offer that included 24 percent raises and $5,000 in bonuses.
With four of the 12 unions representing more than half of the country’s 115,000 rail workers hoping for a better deal, it may fall to Congress to impose one to protect the US economy.
All four unions have rejected deals that the Biden administration helped broker before the original strike deadline in September.
The unions agreed to try to negotiate a contract before the new strike deadline of December 5.
But those talks have stalled because the railways refuse to add paid sick time to what they have already offered.
With four of 12 unions representing half of the 115,000 rail workers hoping for a better deal, it could fall to Congress to impose one (file photo)
Biden touted a September strike-avoidance agreement that his administration helped broker, but four major unions are now deadlocked on terms as the new strike deadline approaches.
Federal lawmakers have the power to dictate the terms of contracts, and hundreds of business groups have urged Congress and President Joe Biden to stand ready to intervene.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre reiterated to reporters Monday that Biden believes “a shutdown is unacceptable” but that “the best option remains for the parties to figure this out themselves.”
The last time US railroads went on strike was in 1992 and it lasted two days before Congress intervened.
There hasn’t been a prolonged rail shutdown in a century, in part because a law passed in 1926 governing rail negotiations made it much more difficult for workers to strike.
The Retail Industry Leaders Association said a rail strike would “cause enormous disruption” even though retail stores are well-stocked for the crucial Christmas shopping season.
It’s unclear what a strike would mean for packages because FedEx and UPS, both of which depend on the rail to some extent, have not commented in detail.
“Luckily, this year’s holiday gifts have already hit store shelves,” said Jess Dankert, of the group that represents more than 200 major retailers.
“We don’t see, you know, canceling Christmas and that kind of narrative,” Dankert said. “But I think we’ll see widespread disruption of really anything that moves by rail.”
A prolonged rail shutdown hasn’t happened in a century, in part because a law passed in 1926 governing rail negotiations made it much harder for workers to strike.
Even getting close to the deadline could cause problems because railroads will freeze shipments of dangerous chemicals and perishable goods early.
And commuters could be stranded if there is a strike because many passenger railways operate on track owned by freight railways.
Virtually every industry could be affected because many companies need railways to deliver their raw materials and finished goods, and there aren’t enough trucks to fill the gap.
Although the potential strike only relates to freight rail workers, about half of all commuter rail systems rely, at least in part, on track owned by freight rail, and nearly all long-distance trains of Amtrak circulate through the freight network.
In September, Amtrak canceled all its long-distance train days before the strike deadline to ensure passengers were not stranded in remote parts of the country while still en route to their destinations.
And major commuter rail services in Chicago, Minneapolis, Maryland and Washington state have warned that some of their operations would be suspended in the event of a rail strike.