On Friday, President Biden signed H. J. Res. 100 into law, legislation that brings to resolution the labor dispute between railroad workers unions and the railroads. The bill, fast-tracked through Congress the week after Thanksgiving, heads off a strike that would have had a potentially disastrous impact on the economy.

The Bill

PPAI has been following the railroad labor dispute for several months and has voiced its support to Washington for a quick resolution. In September, both sides reached a tentative agreement based on terms proposed by a Presidential Emergency Board established by the White House in July.

  • The agreement included raises and bonuses for workers, and revised railroads’ rigid attendance policies. It did not meet rail workers’ sick leave requirements, a major sticking point in the negotiations.

The legislation to compel a resolution was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives on November 29. It requires the parties in the dispute between certain railroads and labor organizations to accept the tentative labor agreement.

  • The House voted to approve the measure 290-137 on November 30.
  • The House introduced a second bill that would add seven days of paid sick leave to the tentative agreement. It passed 221-207.

The Senate took up both bills on December 1 with roll-call votes. Both received bipartisan support but only one passed the Senate.

  • H.J. Res. 100 passed 80-15.
  • H.Con.Res 119 – the 7-day paid sick leave bill – failed to pass. Senators voted 52-43 in favor of the legislation, but it needed 60 votes to go into effect.

In Their Words

The bill’s passage by the Senate ensured that it would be signed into law prior to the strike deadline. In a statement following the Senate’s vote, President Biden said, “I want to thank Congressional leadership who supported the bill and the overwhelming majority of Senators and Representatives in both parties who voted to avert a rail shutdown. Congress’ decisive action ensures that we will avoid the impending, devastating economic consequences for workers, families, and communities across the country.

“I know that many in Congress shared my reluctance to override the union ratification procedures. But in this case, the consequences of a shutdown were just too great for working families all across the country.”

On December 1, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, one of the unions involved in the negotiations and whose members rejected the tentative agreement, also issued a statement following the Senate’s vote. It said, “As prescribed by the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the SMART Transportation Division acknowledges the ability of Congress to legally impose the Tentative National Rail Agreement upon the operating-craft employees represented by the SMART-TD.

“Our efforts to improve the lives of our membership will continue during future negotiations, as well as in the regulatory and legislative process.”

On Thursday, the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC), which represents the nation’s freight railroads in national collective bargaining, published a press release following the Senate’s vote.

“The railroads value the vital contributions made each day by employees to keep our economy moving, and the service we provide to customers would not be possible without the dedicated efforts of the entire workforce,’ the NCCC release said. “We look forward to using these agreements as a springboard for further collaboration with our unions regarding opportunities to enhance rail careers, promote safety, support the environmentally friendly and efficient transport of freight, and strengthen our role as the backbone of the U.S. economy.”