At this time of year, if anyone is thinking about trains, they’re usually watching The Polar Express. Unfortunately, as the holidays loom, talks of a railroad strike drown out any classic holiday movies.
The good news? Christmas isn’t canceled. Most holiday items have already reached their destinations. The bad news? This strike could devastate the economy and cause food, gasoline, and automobile shortages across the country. We’ll take a look at why there is a potential strike, what happens if the railroads shut down, and whether there’s a potential to avert the strike.
In September, the White House brokered a tentative agreement between rail companies and unions which included a 24% wage increase with improved health benefits. At the time, labor and management negotiators approved the deal. Now, the unions are back at the bargaining table to discuss sick leave, threatening to strike on December 9 if their demands aren’t met.
The Association of American Railroads predicts that a shutdown will cost the economy $2 billion daily. In comparison, an estimate from Anderson Economic Group puts that number closer to $1 billion weekly. The bottom line— a strike won’t go unnoticed.
On November 28, President Joe Biden pleaded with Congress, “Let me be clear: a rail shutdown would devastate our economy. Without freight rail, many U.S. industries would shut down.” His economic advisors predict that:
If a strike shuts down the railroads in just over a week, the results could be catastrophic for a country already experiencing high inflation levels.
Despite being a “proud pro-labor President,” Biden calls on Congress to “use its powers to adopt this deal.” Congress can avoid a shutdown thanks to the Railway Labor Act, enacted in 1926, which governs railroad and airline labor relations. The federal law allows Congress to adopt the agreement and avoid a shutdown.
BMWED, a rail union, says that forcing the adoption of the agreement without sick leave will “worsen supply chain issues and further sicken, infuriate, and disenfranchise railroad workers as they continue shouldering the burdens of the railroads’ mismanagement.”
If the strike goes forward, you may experience delays in your shipments. According to PBS, FedEx and UPS use railways to move packages, with each rail car carrying up to 2,000 packages— all of which will need to be moved by alternate methods.
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