WASHINGTON, DC, Nov 28 — There’s still time to avert a railroad strike. The question is how you convince the unions to give up. The unions say that if they don’t get a deal, they’ll walk out on December 9. Negotiations continue but management is prepping for a walkout that could cost us no less than $2 billion a day.
As one unidentified union rail worker put to NBC, the cause of the strike threats is the greed of the rail companies. “It’s obvious their entire business model is set upon lowering the operating ratios and increasing profit margins with the end goal of boosting the stock price. It hurts the workers and the customers.”
If the unions wind up on strike, Congress might intervene by voting in both houses to force workers to go back to work under the terms of the Railway Labor Act of 1926. President Biden would have to sign off on the legislation but, according to CNBC, “the pro-union president would be caught between angering union allies who want to be allowed to go on strike or risking the economic upheaval that the strike would cause.” In addition, there is a possibility that pro-labor Democrats might balk at using the Railway Labor Act to force workers to go back to work. But Ian Jefferies, CEO of the Association of American Railroads points out that “the goal of the Railway Labor Act was to reduce the likelihood of a work stoppage. And it’s been remarkably effective in doing that…I think all parties agree that a work stoppage or a shutdown of the network is not helpful to anybody involved,”
The last time there was a railway strike was in 1991. George H.W. Bush was president and Congress was controlled by Democrats. It took Congress less than 24 hours to force the unions to agree to a settlement. But, according to NBC, “Most observers are skeptical that Congress would do much more than force through a deal along the lines of what was already negotiated — without the paid sick time guarantee. But partisan rancor in Washington remains an unpredictable force and getting the necessary 60 votes in a nearly evenly split Senate is a tough ask.” In fact, in September Senators Roger Wicker [R-MS] and Richard Burr [R-NC] introduced legislation to prevent a strike but it was blocked.
Politico says it’s not likely that the unions and the railroads will find a solution for the dilemma, citing Jeremy Ferguson, president of the largest rail union, SMART-Transportation. Ferguson said “I’m hopeful, but I doubt it’s really in the cards. I’ve got a lot of issues that are outstanding; that are reasons why our guys voted it down.” He said he believes Congress will intervene before the December 9 deadline, “everybody’s ready to get it done”
However, if a strike cannot be avoided, the damage it would do to the nation is mind boggling and the impact on Americans across the board would be devastating. An Associated Press report suggests that making matters worse is a drought that has shut down waterways in the Midwest and it is exacerbating the situation limiting the ability of barges to move produce. The report quotes Josh Linville, the Vice President of Fertilizer for StoneX Financial Inc. who says, “While the barge crews, the coast guard, and everybody has done a phenomenal job of dredging the rivers, making sure they continue to float boats, the efficiency has been down tremendously. We are not able to move nearly as much per day.”
Other sources cited by CNN say that the economic impact of a strike will slow down and shutdown components of a wide ranging selection of products, calling it potential “self-inflicted economic disaster.
“I think it’s [the strike] highly likely…The union bosses basically forced their union members to buck up and accept this deal just to get them through the…midterm elections. But now we’re seeing the reality of it,” says Senator Bill Hagerty [R-TN], according to Townhall. “They only offered one additional work day — one additional sick day, I should say. The unions were asking for 15. That’s a big, big gap. Joe Biden declared victory, again, before the midterm elections. This was all, I think, part of the plan. But what we’re seeing now, the whole thing is coming unraveled and it’s going to be a real crisis, a $2-billion-a-day economic impact if you believe the economists’ estimates. I actually think it could be much greater, because if you look at the knock-on effects on supply chains, it will be significant.”
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