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Senate Passes Measures to Avert Oncoming Railroad Strike

Senate Passes Measures to Avert Oncoming Railroad Strike

Biden will likely sign it immediately.

Yesterday, I noted that soon-to-be former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was planning to expedite a bill that would avert a strike by railroad unions that is slated to begin Dec. 9th.

The House measure passed on Wednesday:

The U.S. House moved urgently to head off the looming nationwide rail strike on Wednesday, passing a bill that would bind companies and workers to a proposed settlement that was reached in September but rejected by some of the 12 unions involved.

The measure passed by a vote of 290-137 and now heads to the Senate. If approved there, it will be signed by President Joe Biden, who urged the Senate to act swiftly.

“Without the certainty of a final vote to avoid a shutdown this week, railroads will begin to halt the movement of critical materials like chemicals to clean our drinking water as soon as this weekend,” Biden said. “Let me say that again: without action this week, disruptions to our auto supply chains, our ability to move food to tables, and our ability to remove hazardous waste from gasoline refineries will begin.”

The measure also included an amendment for more paid sick leave.

On Tuesday, a group of representatives, including Ayanna Pressley, Jamaal Bowman, Cori Bush, Chuy Garcia, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashia Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar introduced an amendment to the House bill that would increase paid sick leave protections for rail workers. “Providing our rail workers the paid sick leave they demand, deserve, and require is critical to a just recovery and to our work to affirm healthcare as the fundamental human right that it is, Pressley said in a statement released Wednesday morning ahead of the House vote.

hat provision also passed on Wednesday and would increase the number of paid sick days for rail workers from one (as given in the tentative agreement) to seven, if it also passes in the Senate. But the provision is structured in such a way that when the vote goes to the Senate, lawmakers could choose to pass only the tentative rail agreement without the additional paid sick leave.

Ahead of the vote, Wheaton said that changes to the bill, including provisions like more sick leave, could mean it has a tougher time getting through the Senate.

The deal being offered in the bill addresses many of the union members’ concerns.

Time off for medical appointments – workers will be able to take time off for medical appointments without being penalized.

Pay raises – workers will be offered a 24 percent pay raise over the fivey-ear period from 2020-2024, back pay and cash bonuses, with 14 percent of the raise taking effect immediately

No health care hikes – the agreement prevents increases to healthcare copays and deductibles, a big win for workers.

More time off – workers would be given voluntarily assigned days off and one more paid day off per year.

Two-person crews – The deal protects two-person crews indefinitely, after workers voiced safety concerns when they were asked to operate trains by themselves.

The Senate voted and passed the measure on Thursday, with two additional votes failing:

Ultimately the Senate voted 80-15, with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) voting present, on a bill that would impose the terms of a contract negotiated among freight railroads and most of their unions in September. Four out of the 12 unions involved had been holding out for additional paid sick days, making a strike possible as soon as Dec. 9.

“I’m very glad that the two sides got together to avoid a shutdown which would be devastating for the American people, the American economy and so many workers across the country,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters, shortly after a luncheon meeting with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh concluded.

Two additional Senate votes — one to add seven paid sick days, and one to extend the period during which the unions can’t strike, by another 60 days — both failed, 52-43 and 25-70 respectively. Though the sick leave bill garnered more yes votes than no votes (including six from Republicans), it still failed because it did not achieve the 60-vote threshold.

“I always knew you were a socialist,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) joked to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on the Senate floor after he voted in favor of the additional paid sick leave.


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The Senate passed a “Measure” but whether a strike will be averted is yet to be seen.

    Rabel in reply to Paula. | December 1, 2022 at 7:33 pm

    It could happen, but it would be an illegal strike and strikers could be fired. The companies now have a legally valid contract and not showing up for work will be considered a “voluntary quit.”

      GWB in reply to Rabel. | December 1, 2022 at 7:45 pm

      They now have a legally-enforced contract. I don’t think it could in any way be called a legal contract since they (some, anyway) don’t desire to sign.

      Of course, it were healthcare….

        gospace in reply to GWB. | December 1, 2022 at 8:20 pm

        Not until both the house and the senate pass identical bills and someone tells the president to sign it.

    Subotai Bahadur in reply to Paula. | December 2, 2022 at 7:30 pm

    OK. I don’t like the unions involved, especially because they are Democrat stalwarts [and probably still will be after being betrayed by Biden], but the issue is hours and staffing, not hourly wages. The railroads both laid off a bunch of people AND increased the size of trains operating them with fewer people with Covid. This means that the rail workers do NOT have regular days off anymore. One of the things the regime is bragging about is that their bill increased the number of paid days off by one. Except that they cannot take it off.

    One thing I expect is a deliberate slow-down, hurting the railroads and economy. Absolute work to rule will do that. Remember, the railroads got rid of a lot of staff. So they do not have a lot of room to fire people in any numbers. Net effect, like a strike.

    Subotai Bahadur

How can the government agree to a contract for a union?
I am not a big union guy and believe that most modern unions work against the interests of their members and yet, they should get to vote to do want the union guys want to do.

    healthguyfsu in reply to Martin. | December 1, 2022 at 7:19 pm

    Because they are the government. They can do what they want and change the whole landscape of a country with enough power in the oligarchy.

    It’s not your right to question it*

    *unless it comes from the right….then, QUESTION EVERYTHING!!!

    4rdm2 in reply to Martin. | December 1, 2022 at 7:59 pm

    The unions got in bed with government, did they think they could call up the devil and ask him to behave?

    Milhouse in reply to Martin. | December 2, 2022 at 1:28 am

    The government did not “agree” to the contract “for” the union. Congress is passing a law, which the constitution authorizes it to do, imposing the terms of this contract on both parties. Unlike much of the legislation that comes out of Congress, this is an actual valid exercise of its power to make laws regulating interstate commerce. So even strict constructionists who denounce Wickard and its progeny would agree that this is valid.

      I’m not sure the Constitution gives them the right to impose terms of employment on private employers and employees. You’re getting into some sketchy stuff there. But, yes, they at least have the authority to “regulate interstate commerce.” (Legislation in this case is a pretty big hammer that might bring very bad consequences.)

        Milhouse in reply to GWB. | December 2, 2022 at 2:07 pm

        That’s what regulating interstate commerce means. It may be a bad idea, but it’s clearly within the scope of the power, unlike most laws Congress makes purporting to exercise that power.

          BierceAmbrose in reply to Milhouse. | December 3, 2022 at 3:02 pm

          Do you have citations? Citing bare “regulate interstate commerce” is way too broad.

          There are several court decisions declaring that particular aspects of economic activity are within what “regulating interstate commerce” means. The oft-cited one reasoned from impact on commodity prices in another state. I am not aware of federal court decisions declaring general forced employment to be within “regulating interstate commerce.”

          I am aware of some federal legislation declaring both universal requirements on employment, and particular federal authority to impose additional constraints and even impose “you will comply and show up” for some “employment” in some circumstances.

        Subotai Bahadur in reply to GWB. | December 2, 2022 at 7:34 pm

        As I mentioned elsewhere, there is the possibility of a “work to rule” slowdown, and there is also the possibility of their workers just quitting. Nobody can find enough workers anywhere in our economy. Something, something, welfare state.

        Subotai Bahadur

        markm in reply to GWB. | December 7, 2022 at 2:52 pm

        The federal government got this power when greedy idiots in the unions tried to take advantage of the key position railroads had in our war plans in WWI and II. So of course the President requested legislation to keep the railroad workers on the job, Congress passed it, and any questions about whether they could do that went to the Supreme Court at a moment when they would rubberstamp anything the President wanted. (Even locking up American citizens of Japanese descent without any evidence against any individual.)

        So now there is SC precedent saying they can do that. It might be bad precedent, but getting the SC to overrule a previous SC is always an uphill battle.

      diver64 in reply to Milhouse. | December 3, 2022 at 5:52 am

      They can make laws regulating interstate commerce, that is true but they can not make laws forcing private citizens to work. That is called Tyranny and you are now not a citizen but a subject.

    Dimsdale in reply to Martin. | December 2, 2022 at 7:46 am

    And it proves that the unions are controlled by the Dems, even to the detriment of their membership.

    “Do what we say, vote for who we tell you, and shut up.”

Way to go, GOP, just bail them out.

UnCivilServant | December 1, 2022 at 7:27 pm

I don’t see how this will do anything, They already rejected that contract, so enforcing it by diktat will not allay their grievences. It will not stop them walking off the job. It might even push more to do so from the heavyhandedness.

    It’s not meant to allay their grievances. But it will stop them walking off the job if they don’t want to be arrested.

      Subotai Bahadur in reply to Milhouse. | December 2, 2022 at 7:49 pm

      It depends on how they “walk off the job”. If they say ‘Bugger this, I quit’, and leave the job I don’t think that there is any provision in that law or any other that tied them to the jobs for life or for the convenience of the government. Mind you, quitting your job being a felony is a particularly Leftist view. And I think that any effort to conscript them into national service would not go well with them or with anyone else who could see themselves as possibly being next on the list to be indentured servants.

      And just in passing, the uproar might make future recruiting of railroad employees a bit more difficult.

      Subotai Bahadur

So, if some of the unions go on strike, the entire rail industry shuts down? Hmmmm….
Doesn’t that sound like an effective monopoly? That might, you know, need some trust-busting?

Short answer:

Congress and the Supreme Court passed laws that said it’s ok.

Long answer:

NLRA (Democrat) and Clayton and Norris-LaGuardia Acts (Republican) primarily.

Exactly how is the Federal Government going to force private workers to show up if they don’t want to? I think this is the first time Congress has been involved in forcing private people to work a job they might not want to. Does no-one else see the danger of this?
Wage Slave takes on a whole new meaning.

    4rdm2 in reply to diver64. | December 2, 2022 at 5:25 am

    It wouldn’t mean they are forced to show up, just that they can legally be fired if they don’t. Like anyone else who isn’t a union member and doesn’t get their special privileges.

      Milhouse in reply to 4rdm2. | December 2, 2022 at 10:22 am

      Also the union could be fined for an illegal strike.

      diver64 in reply to 4rdm2. | December 3, 2022 at 5:56 am

      And how would that work out for the railroads considering they are short on help now? Brandon botched the entire thing but strongarmed the Union Leadership into accepting a deal to brag he solved it before the elections and most Americans, I think, not being Union members had no idea the membership actually had to vote and ratify the deal. Now Brandon is counting on Congress to bail him out. I wonder just what all those Union members now think of the millions their Unions poured into Dem coffers and the Dems they voted for?

    CommoChief in reply to diver64. | December 2, 2022 at 8:57 am

    The Taft Hartley Act has been invoked many times requiring essentially the same thing. So not even close to the first time, not even in the first ten.

      diver64 in reply to CommoChief. | December 3, 2022 at 6:02 am

      I think you are incorrect. It has not been used in this manner before and I think Bush was the last to do so during the Longshoreman thing but in that case the Companies locked out the workers, the workers did not walk out refusing to work. It has been used 20 times or so since 1946 (?) but not in this manner.

    markm in reply to diver64. | December 7, 2022 at 2:59 pm

    ” I think this is the first time Congress has been involved in forcing private people to work a job they might not want to.”

    Ever hear of the draft? Tens of millions of men were forced to wear a uniform, go to foreign countries and live outdoors for years, risk their lives, and at least pretend to try to kill whoever the government designated an enemy. Next to that, being forced to drive a train isn’t so bad – but Congress has also done that when railroad strikes threatened military supply chains during WWI and WWII.

The big unions use actions like this, truck strikes, train strikes, to get what they want.

The RRW union made the mistake of acting against the interests of their Democrat overlords.

BierceAmbrose | December 3, 2022 at 3:07 pm

You know, when The Movement invokes a Ministry of Labor, now you’re riding that tiger.

Don’t summon stuff you can’t control. (BTW, if it’s stronger than you so it can do for you the thing you cant, why do you think you’re strong enough to control it? Wealthy enough to bribe it? Compelling enough to convince it?)

BierceAmbrose | December 3, 2022 at 3:08 pm

I didn’t know the commerce clause empowered economic conscription.

When did that happen?