U.S. President Joe Biden addresses a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., December 1, 2022. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst.
President Biden signed legislation on Friday to block a countrywide freight rail strike that would otherwise wreak devastating economic consequences.
“The bill I’m about to sign ends a difficult rail dispute and helps our nation avoid what without a doubt would have been an economic catastrophe at a very bad time in the calendar,” said President Biden on Friday.
The railroad workers were set to begin their strike as soon as Dec. 9, threatening not only holiday shipments but passenger and commuter railroads. The delivery of chemicals to make clean drinking water, gasoline and food for livestock would also have been in grave danger.
In this morning’s remarks, the President said a strike would have overwhelmed the U.S. economy, causing roughly 765,000 job losses in the first two weeks alone and that many industries would “literally shut down” due to disrupted supply chains.
The bill, passed Thursday by the Senate and Wednesday by the House, binds the rail companies and workers to a settlement reached in September. However, members in four of the 12 unions rejected the deal due to a lack of sufficient paid sick leave.
Earlier this week, Congress proposed a measure to include seven days of paid sick leave but failed to get it passed by the senate by eight votes.
The bill will ensure a historic 24 percent wage increase over the next five years that are also retroactive to 2020 while improving working conditions and healthcare but paid sick leave remains unresolved.
“But we still have more work to do, in my view, in terms of ultimately getting paid sick leave not just for rail workers but for every worker in America.” Biden added, “That is a goal I had in the beginning, and I’m coming back at it.”
Biden said he would continue to push for paid sick leave separately and that the fight is not over. “I’ve supported paid sick leave for a long time,” he said. “I’m going to continue that fight until we succeed.”
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