”I call on Congress to immediately pass legislation to adopt the interim agreement between railroad workers and operators without any modification or delay.” In a statement on November 28, US President Biden called on Congress to use legislative power to avoid An impending strike by railroad workers across the United States.
The governor of Chang’an Street noticed that under the urging of Biden, the House of Representatives strongly intervened two days later and voted to pass a provisional agreement and a separate measure to give railway workers 7 days of paid sick leave, which intensified the conflict between the railway company and the labor union.
”Biden has decided to sell out workers in the biggest labor struggle of his tenure.” American left-wing journalist Hamilton Nolan published a commentary in The Guardian, pointing out that Biden did not allow railroad workers across the country to exercise their right to strike, but used With his power to intervene and force them to accept a deal that most workers cannot accept, “Biden stabbed the union in the back.”
Why are unions deeply disappointed by Biden’s behavior when the House of Representatives passed a clause giving workers 7 days of paid leave? It all started with that provisional agreement.
In September of this year, under the coordination of the White House, the labor and management sides reached a provisional agreement, which mainly includes three points: a 24% salary increase for railway employees by 2024, an annual bonus of $1,000, and one day of paid sick leave.
Four of the 12 unions involved in the negotiations, including SMART-TD, the largest railroad union in the United States, rejected the tentative agreement. The four unions represent more than 100,000 workers.
Why did the four unions not agree to the provisional agreement? The crux of the problem is paid time off.
Workers say their physical and mental health are stretched to the limit with a hectic work schedule and irregular breaks, and they need more flexible paid time off policies.
”It’s these people who are doing their best during the epidemic and risking their health to ensure that Americans get supplies, so this is not a high demand.” said Kennedy, the chief negotiator of the American Road Maintenance Association Employees Division (BMWED).
Unlike nearly 80 percent of U.S. workers, railroad employees are currently not guaranteed paid sick leave, according to New York Magazine. If they are sick, they need to apply for leave a few days in advance.
In other words, if workers contracted the flu virus and needed medical attention, they had to anticipate the day before they contracted the virus and notify their employers in advance.
But the railway company rejected the demands. Affected by the epidemic and layoffs, the railway industry is facing labor shortages. Railway companies can only require their employees to work long hours, or even work for weeks at a time, through strict attendance policies.
It is reported that last year, the net income of the seven major North American railroad companies combined was 27 billion U.S. dollars, almost double the profit margin of a decade ago. Railroad companies have the ability to provide employees with paid leave and hire more employees to ensure operational stability. , but they don’t want to lose revenue because of it.
And, if the Senate doesn’t pass the 7-day paid leave clause in the next few days, they don’t have to.
The policies of the Democratic Party have always tended to support the working class. Why did they force the workers this time?
December 9 is the deadline for the provisional agreement. If the 12 railway unions involved in the negotiations do not approve the tentative agreement by that date, the railway workers will launch a general strike.
Railroads are the second largest mode of freight transportation in the United States, and rail lines are important arteries for American commerce, carrying 40% of the country’s annual freight volume. U.S. economists, business groups and railroads say the strikes will disrupt the flow of fuel, medicine and other vital goods, costing the economy an estimated $2 billion a day and having a devastating impact on the recovery.
”I am a pro-union president.” Biden argued that he was unwilling to force workers to accept the interim agreement, all in order to avoid the possible economic losses caused by the railway strike, and “had no choice.”
After the House of Representatives voted to pass, the two agreements have entered the Senate stage. “The Senate must now take urgent action.” Biden said on November 30. “Let me say it again: Without action this week, our automotive supply chain, our ability to get food to our table, and our ability to remove hazardous waste from our refineries will all be disrupted.”
”But in fact the strike has already begun.” Corey Rosenbusch, director of the Fertilizer Institute, said in an interview. “Rail carriers have been notified to withdraw ammonia transport from the rail network five days before the strike. Many fertilizer companies are already preparing for the strike.”
With little hope of Senate passage, workers would then have no right to strike.
The House voted 290 to 137 to approve the interim agreement and narrowly passed a separate measure to give railroad workers seven days of paid sick leave, 221 to 207, with only three Republicans voting for it . Fox News stated that Republicans have almost maintained “overwhelming opposition” to this provision.
White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre told reporters that the sick leave bill may not pass the 60-vote threshold in the Senate. “President Biden supports paid sick leave for railroad workers, of course, but the most important thing is to get a tentative Senate-passed deal on his desk by June 3, and he’s very clear about that.”
According to US media analysis, the huge differences between the two parties mean that the provisional agreement may be passed in the Senate to avoid workers’ strikes, but there is little hope for 7 days of paid leave. To that end, unions are working overtime lobbying the Senate.
”We’re absolutely calling every senator’s office,” said Clark Ballou, communications director for the Brotherhood of Truckers International (BMWED), one of the four unions that initially opposed the tentative agreement. “All of our 23,000 members are calling their senators, urging and begging them to agree to increased sick leave.”
Another union opposed to the tentative agreement, the Brotherhood of Railway Signalmen, said: “A worker should not be fired for going to the doctor. It’s 2022 and railway workers in the richest country on earth are still paying for sick leave.” war.”
And for workers, whether or not the Senate finally passes the seven-day paid leave agreement, their struggle will be forced to end.
According to Fox News, according to the “Railway Labor Act” that came into effect in the United States in 1926, Congress strongly intervenes in the railway union agreement and has the final decision. Any subsequent strikes due to dissatisfaction with the sick leave agreement will be illegal strikes.
And paid sick leave, which affects 100,000 freight railroad workers, will remain an unresolved issue.
The US media AXIOS News Network pointed out that the struggle of American railroad workers is a typical example of labor issues in the post-epidemic era-not around money itself, but around the influence of the working class and the pursuit of quality of life.
At the same time, the tortuous negotiation process is also a test of the Biden administration’s determination to support labor. It is clear that the Biden administration has let workers down. Some workers said they felt betrayed by a president who thought he was on their side.
Critics such as political commentator Krystal Ball pointed out that Biden’s call for Congress to intervene in the strike of railroad workers means that he “chooses to stand with the boss of the railroad company” and abandoned his repeated claims of “supporting labor” and “unions”. Joe’s name.
“There is nothing more powerful than organized workers,” wrote Hamilton Nolan. “We need to stop begging politicians for our support and have them beg ours. After all, just because a strike is illegal doesn’t mean it will not happen.”