WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) – The US House of Representatives approved a bill Wednesday to end the railroad strike that has wreaked havoc on the economy.
The project, approved by a vote of 290 against 137, now moves to the Senate. If he approves it, President Joe Biden, who requested the measure, will quickly approve it.
Biden on Monday called on Congress to intervene to prevent a rail stoppage that would wreak havoc on the fragile US economy by disrupting the transport of fuel, food and other vital consumer goods. The Chamber of Commerce, the Farmers Federation and other business groups warned that halting a train service would cost the economy $2 billion a day.
The measure forces companies and workers to abide by an agreement reached in September, but was rejected by four of the 12 unions representing 100,000 workers at large companies. The workers have threatened a walkout if a settlement is not reached before December 9.
Lawmakers from both sides expressed reservations about invalidating the talks. The intervention was especially difficult for Democratic lawmakers traditionally aligned with politically powerful unions, who criticized Biden’s intervention in a contract dispute to prevent the strike.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi added a second vote to add seven days of paid sick leave for workers covered by the agreement. It will come into force only after getting approval from the Senate.
The request for seven additional days was one of the biggest stumbling blocks in the talks. The companies say that in decades of negotiations, unions have always agreed to refrain from demanding days off in exchange for better pay and disability benefits.
The president of the business chamber Association of American Railroads said those days could be added in the future, but such a change should wait for a new round of negotiations and not be added after three years of negotiations.
Unions say companies can easily pay on days when they are making record profits. Several companies participating in the talks reported profits of more than $1,000 million in the third quarter.