Friday, February 3, 2023

US House of Representatives approves legislation to avoid railway strike

The United States Lower House on Wednesday approved a bill to avoid a strike in the railway sector on Christmas Eve, which President Joe Biden warned could be disastrous for the country’s economy.

The House of Representatives ratified it by 290 votes in favor and 137 votes against, and now that text must also be voted on by the Senate before ratification by the President.

Deputies also approved by 221 votes in favor and 207 against a parallel motion to grant workers seven days of paid leave, a key request of the latter and which is also pending approval by the Upper House.

“The Senate must act urgently now. Without a final vote this week to avoid shutdowns, (…) disruptions to our auto supply chains, our ability to keep food on the table and to remove hazardous waste from gasoline refineries will begin,” he said. Both statement after votes

The president met with the leaders of both houses this Tuesday to implement by law the principle of the September agreement, something the legislature has the power to do by virtue of a regulation that dates back to 1926.

The joint resolution reached the Chamber recalls the parliamentary right to act when there are still unresolved differences between the parties, noting that it is in the national interest that transport services be maintained.

Unions and sector representatives closed a provisional agreement in September that included a 24% pay increase for employees, as well as penalizing them for going to the doctor or responding to family emergencies without being punished, as The current system does, which doesn’t include sick days.

Workers in eight unions have voted in favor of that agreement in recent months, but four others have rejected it and in recent days have threatened to start a strike on December 9, just before Christmas.

“Congress must act. It won’t be easy, but I think we have to do it. The economy could be in jeopardy,” the US president said in his meeting with the leaders of the Democratic majority and Republican minority in the Senate and House of Representatives at the White House on Tuesday.

Disruption to rail transportation across the country, according to the White House, will negatively affect the economy and cause more disruption to the supply chain. If that strike happens, it is estimated that 765,000 people could lose their jobs in the first two weeks.

Democratic Congressman Jim McGovern asserted this Wednesday that the economic impact of the ban could add up to $2,000 million a day.

But the decision to resort to the strike avoidance bill hasn’t gone down well with some unions: “Railway workers will keep fighting for what we deserve,” RWU co-president Gabe Christensen said in a statement on Tuesday.

Nation World News Desk
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