US Senate votes on bill to avoid rail strike and give sick leave to employees

US Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said a vote on a bill that would have avoided the nationwide rail strike was coming Thursday.

Senators were also scheduled to vote on a measure that would provide seven days of paid sick leave for railroad workers.

the house acted Passing legislation that would bind railroad companies and workers to a proposed agreement in September followed a request by Joe Biden, but rejected by four of the 12 unions involved.

In a closed-door session earlier Thursday, the Biden administration told Democratic senators american economy If senators do not pass legislation this week to postpone the strike, they will face a severe economic blow.

The US Secretary of Labor, Marty Walsh, and the Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, met with Democratic senators to outline how long the railroad companies would begin winding down operations ahead of a possible strike on December 9.

Buttigieg told CNBC, “If there’s a possibility of a shutdown, about five days before that, the railroads need to start reducing acceptance of things like hazardous material shipments.”

“So my goal today talking to senators will be to make sure they understand the implications of a shutdown or a shutdown approaching. It won’t just bring down our rail system. It would really shut down our economy.

Railways say that stopping the rail service will cause a loss of two billion dollars daily to the economy. The freight rail strike would have a major potential impact on passenger rail, with Amtrak and several commuter railroads relying on tracks owned by freight railroads.

Rail companies and unions are engaged in high-level negotiations. The Biden administration helped broker deals in September but four unions rejected them. Eight others approved five-year deals and account for 24% receiving retroactive pay for their employees through 2020.

On Monday, Biden called on Congress to implement the temporary agreement. Congress has the authority to do so and has enacted legislation in the past to delay or prevent railway and airline strikes. But most MPs would prefer that the parties iron out their differences. The White House’s intervention hit especially hard for Democrats, traditionally aligned with politically powerful labor unions, who criticized Biden’s move to quell the strike.

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to that concern Wednesday with a second vote on a bill that would add seven days of paid sick leave per year for railroad workers under the agreement. The call for paid sick leave was a major sticking point in the talks, along with other quality-of-life concerns.

The railroads say unions have agreed in negotiations for decades to give up paid sick time in favor of higher wages and stronger short-term disability benefits.

Unions say the railroads could easily add paid sick time when they are posting record profits. Many of the large railroads involved in these contract negotiations reported profits of more than $1 billion in the third quarter.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he understood the urgency of a drawn-out fight and the stakes for the economy.

“Senators are working morning, noon and night to reach an agreement for us to act on this measure as quickly as possible,” Schumer said. “The Senate can’t leave until we get the job done. And Democrats will continue to work with Republicans on a move forward that everyone can support.

Schumer said a vote on providing seven days of paid sick leave would be a priority. But he would have to work out a compromise because no senator could block early consideration of the measure.

The House passed legislation enacting the September Compromise with broad bipartisan support. But a second measure adding seven paid sick days for railroad workers passed on a mostly party-line vote, indicating dim prospects in an evenly divided Senate.

Read full story at the guardian.com

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