Rift Between Democrats and Unions Over Rail Strike Measure

Rift Between Democrats and Unions Over Rail Strike Measure

Senators anticipate having at least 60 votes to pass legislation to halt a statewide rail strike; however, a companion bill to increase sick leave for railroad employees is not receiving much Republican support. A rare breach between Democrats and organized labor has resulted in the Democratic-controlled Congress being prepared to impose a labor agreement on railway workers that was rejected by four freight train unions.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) had provided colleagues little information on how he would organize the votes on the two bills passed by the House: one to end the strike and the other to extend sick leave for railroad workers by an additional seven days.

However, the Democratic leader made it clear that he is determined to prevent a rail strike, which would paralyze significant portions of the supply chain and increase pressure on a national economy already dealing with inflation that is at a 40-year high.

He claimed he is collaborating with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to “prevent a shutdown” of the railroads and “be as fair to the workers as we can be.”

Rift Between Democrats and Unions Over Rail Strike Measure (1)

To halt a train strike that White House officials worry would have severe effects on the economy, President Biden on Tuesday summoned Schumer, Pelosi, McConnell, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to the White House.

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The strike deadline is December 9, but congressional leaders want to take action this week to prevent any supply chain disruptions. Even if it doesn’t provide for increased sick leave for employees, the clear majority of Senate Democrats are anticipated to approve a bill to prevent a rail strike.

However, several prominent liberals, including Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass. ), Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), declined to say whether they would vote to force employees to accept the labor agreement negotiated by the emergency board President Biden established in July.

Sanders only stated that he would insist on a vote on more sick days, and he labeled speculation about how that vote should be conducted as “speculating.” Insisting on a contract with paid leave days, Brown said, but he declined to clarify whether the absence of more sick days would be a “deal breaker.”

Warren remarked that at first, she believed Schumer would utilize the House-passed measure prohibiting the strike as the foundational legislation and then allow Sanders to present an amendment to include sick leave in the agreement between rail carriers and employees.

She then clarified that the procedure for examining the two ideas was still up in the air. In light of this, Schumer may require 10 to 13 Republican votes, depending on the number of his caucus members who vote against him. Legislation imposing a labor agreement on train businesses and employees was approved by the House by a vote of 290 to 137, with 79 Republicans voting in favor and only eight Democrats voting against it.

Reps. Don Bacon (Neb.), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), and John Katko were the only Republicans to support the companion bill, which would have granted rail workers seven days of sick leave annually, by a considerably narrower majority of 221 to 207. (N.Y.). As of Wednesday afternoon, no Republican senator had firmly stated that he would support granting employees seven days of paid sick leave.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo. ), who previously stated that he would oppose any legislation that imposes a labor agreement that railroad workers have already rejected, said he would need to speak with employees before determining how to vote on the extended sick leave.

To ensure that any legislation granting workers more sick days would be “binding,” he said, “I’d want to hear what the workers say, so I’d want to talk to them and get their position on that.” “Why not give the employees more time to discuss this? Why not give them a chance to jump back in?” he questioned.

Some Senate Republicans have raised the possibility of enacting legislation to prevent a strike for a month or two to allow freight carriers and the unions more time to negotiate a final agreement, showing sympathy for the idea that negotiations should be given more time.

Senator John Cornyn of Texas and Senate Republican Whip John Thune of South Dakota both stated that they did not believe the legislation granting employees greater sick leave had the necessary support to pass. Thune stated, “I don’t know where the votes are for anything at this point.

According to Cornyn, it would be a bad idea for Congress to try to change these collective bargaining agreements because of the precedent it would set. As understanding as I am of their desire to accrue more sick days… I simply believe there would be a very long line of various labor issues that would arrive at our door.

Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.), among other conservatives, are arguing that Congress shouldn’t take any action and should instead put the onus on Biden to either address the issue or bear responsibility for a crippling train strike. The locals in the cloakroom are becoming restless, according to a Republican senator, and they don’t want to offer the president any political cover.

Cruz suggested on Thursday that forcing railroad workers to approve a labor agreement would be unethical for Congress to do. “I don’t believe it is the role of Congress to intervene, as the Biden White House is urging us to do, and support management above the interests of the unionized workers. I believe that it should be openly discussed between the two,” he stated.

The Biden administration “should figure out how to reach a deal, get the unions and companies to agree,” according to Scott. Cruz, a senator from his home state, was challenged by Cornyn, who asserted that Congress had the jurisdiction to take action under the Railway Labor Act of 1926, which allows Congress to intervene to end a railroad strike.