Lazy eyes listen
Lawmakers in the US House of Representatives voted Wednesday to prevent a potentially catastrophic freight rail strike, stepping in to break an impasse between workers and executives during a critical pre-holiday period.
The bill, passed with a solid bipartisan majority, effectively forces hold-out unions to accept a September deal on increased wages, which a majority of unions had already agreed to.
But in a win for organized labor, the House also backed a measure to add mandated paid sick time to the agreement, addressing the major sticking point identified by unions.
The sick-leave measure passed on a tighter, mostly party-line vote, leaving its fate in the Senate more uncertain.
Biden praised the bipartisan vote to avert a shutdown that “would devastate our economy and families everywhere,” but said the measure must be expeditiously progressed through Washington.
“Without more action, supply chain disruptions will begin,” Biden said on Twitter. “The Senate must urgently send a bill to my desk.”
The Biden administration had taken a hands-on approach to the long-running deadlock over a contract between organized labor and railroads, with cabinet secretaries in September participating in all-night negotiations alongside union leaders and rail executives.
After that marathon session, leaders from the two sides announced a tentative agreement.
Since that time, members of eight of the 12 rail unions approved the deal, while four voted it down.
The agreement includes a 24 percent pay increase for workers. But critics in organized labor have slammed a lack of guaranteed paid sick leave, an omission that has been seen as evidence of “unchecked corporate greed,” as one leading union put it