Today, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, introduced a resolution that would prevent a disastrous rail worker strike if contract negotiations are not soon resolved.
The Senate resolution would adopt the comprehensive recommendations made by President Biden’s appointees to the Presidential Emergency Board (PEB), which include significant wage rate increases for workers retroactive to 2020. Despite a broad consensus on the PEB’s recommendations, two labor unions continue to stymie contract negotiations. Without an agreement, America faces a potential rail worker strike as early as September 16th, which would cost an estimated $2 billion a day.
“A rail worker strike would be catastrophic for America’s transportation system and our already-stressed supply chain,” said Senator Burr. “The Presidential Emergency Board recommendations are a fair and appropriate solution to a years-long negotiation process, but labor unions are continuing to hold the entire nation’s rail system hostage as they demand more. The Biden Administration should reject labor unions’ bullying tactics. This resolution would provide certainty for Americans who have a right to travel and work freely across state lines.”
“A rail strike would be counterproductive for everyone involved and would have devastating impacts on our entire economy,” Senator Wicker said. “While there is still time for the remaining parties to reach voluntary agreements to end this dispute, it is time to bring this matter to a close. This resolution would implement the recommendations as issued by the Presidential Emergency Board. They are balanced, comprehensive, and would ensure rail service is not disrupted further.”
You can read text of the resolution here.
Since 2019, the railroad industry and rail unions have been engaged in negotiations for a new contract, failing to produce an agreement. In July 2022, following the process established by the Railway Labor Act, President Biden appointed a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) to investigate the dispute and make recommendations.
In August 2022, the PEB released its recommendations, which were endorsed by the White House. The recommendations proposed a 24 percent wage increase, plus $1,000 annual bonuses, to be applied retroactively dating to 2020, as well as increased health care and other benefits. Eight of the 12 unions agreed to the recommendations; however, four remaining unions have not.
If the parties have not reached a tentative agreement by September 16th, the rail unions could engage in strike activity, which would cost an estimated $2 billion a day.
Under the Railway Labor Act, Congress has intervened to prevent rail disruptions at least 18 times in the past. This resolution further provides clarity and continuity to ensure the continued delivery of necessary goods to the American people.