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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