President Joe Biden, who has carefully crafted an image as a champion of both unions and the railway system, is seeing both issues collide in a crisis that could devastate the nation’s already struggling economy.
After brokering an apparently flimsy deal to avoid a rail strike earlier this year, Biden is once again facing the prospect of a rail worker strike that would bring many types of deliveries to a standstill during the busy holiday season.
For their part, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are considering a measure that would essentially shut down union negotiations and force workers to show up for work. In a statement on Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that leaders in both chambers of Congress believe there is enough support to pass the legislation.
“[Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell and I both want to pass it quickly,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). “We understand the time deadlines, and we’ll be working together and figure out the best way to get it done quickly.”
Although statements by Pelosi and Schumer came after discussions with Biden, the president expressed his ideological opposition to curtailing union negotiations.
“As a proud pro-labor president, I am reluctant to override the ratification procedures and the views of those who voted against the agreement,” he said. “But in this case, where the economic impact of a shutdown would hurt millions of other working people and families, I believe Congress must use its power to adopt this deal.”
As it stands, rail workers are ready to stage a strike beginning on Dec. 9, which is less than three months after Biden worked with union leaders and railway companies to reach a tentative agreement to avoid a walkout at that time.
Since then, members of several unions have asserted that the terms of that agreement did not go far enough.
A national rail strike may still occur after a tentative deal brokered by @POTUS in September was voted down by the unions. Chief negotiator for the @BMWEDIBT rail union joins the #FOXNewsRundown to stress why they’re pushing for paid sick leave.https://t.co/Hb6gUss06T pic.twitter.com/4ywQck6hkw
— FOX News Radio (@foxnewsradio) November 30, 2022
Railroad Workers United, for example, insisted that the president “blew it” when negotiating the earlier deal.
“He had the opportunity to prove his labor-friendly pedigree to millions of workers by simply asking Congress for legislation to end the threat of a national strike on terms more favorable to workers,” the union claimed. “Sadly, he could not bring himself to advocate for a lousy handful of sick days. The Democrats and Republicans are both pawns of big business and the corporations.”