November 30 2022
"The Supply Chains Are Being Crippled By The Railroads Themselves;" Rail Strike To Be Triggered Dec 9th
For the past three years, those in the rail industry in the United States have been attempting to negotiate improved conditions for those working in that industry.
Rail corporations have fired workers and imposed “strict” attendance policies, allowing no time off during the COVID-19 pandemic and providing no wage increase during an inflationary period. The rail worker's unions, an alliance of 12 groups, have asked for 15 paid days for labourers to utilise if they are sick.
The industry has so far only agreed to concede one sick day. President Biden has stated that this concession was a “win for the dignity of rail workers”. Seven of the unions ratified this offer, but the rest resisted. Now the United States is set for a strike in a vital industry during a supply-chain crisis that has caused prices for staples to rise sharply.
The implications of a rail strike are enormous for the shipping of goods. However, ABC (owned by The Walt Disney Company) has reported that the strike would also affect public passenger rail transportation, such as AMTRAK.
Many in the United States political and economic ruling class are understandably upset about the potential for a strike on midnight of Dec 9th 2022 should a deal not come to pass. But they are not the only Americans concerned. A strike would affect every American’s ability to procure essential goods. Reportage is reflecting these concerns, but very few are reporting the rail worker’s specific reasons for considering a strike. WCBS (Owned by National Amusements) reports that only 30% of American goods are shipped via rail. Still, in an inflationary environment that is lowering the living standard of American workers, a lack of functional rail transportation further heighten prices.
Now that the Dec 9th deadline is approaching, the state is looking for political solutions that would force all rail unions to accept the proposal offering one sick day. President Biden is asking the legislature to create legislation in the communique “Statement From President Joe Biden On Averting Rail Strike.” The current majority leader in the lower house agrees and says a “Rail Agreement Bill” will be produced before the possible Dec 9th strike.
The two political parties controlling the US government have stated they can agree on this legislation, which rarely occurs in the country’s political system.
The “Rail Agreement Bill” will also include an arbitration process that labour unions and industry will be forced to engage with. Union officials say that rail corporations are “counting on the state to force workers to accept their terms.”
President Biden has stated that a railway strike would be “unacceptable” and that it would “devastate” the American economy, which has been reported by both ABC/13 News Now (Tegna) & CBS. If the state were to force the labour unions to accept the September proposal, industry would provide a 24% pay increase, but not immediately, as well as a $1000 annual bonus for workers, and a cap on health insurance premiums.
Most of this reportage from influential mainstream outlets in the USA emphasise the damage that will be done to the American economy and the people, but rarely are the concerns of the workers explicitly expressed. Comcast’s TODAY programme has quoted President Biden as saying a strike would “hurt millions of other working people and families”. However, it did not speak on how not having more than one sick day would affect the families of rail workers.
One local broadcast station, ABC 11 (The Walt Disney Company), played a highly-edited clip of an unidentified man, and also incorrectly stated that the number of rail unions was 11, not 12. The report did not share with viewers that their interviewee was in fact a member of industry group the Association of American Railroads. Clips of this man, giving industry’s perspective on the matter, also appeared on other ABC-affiliated television packages broadcast around the country.
This official stated that the strike action was legal under the current Railway Act, where workers can strike within their unions. However, this would be obsolesced when and if the new Railway Agreement Bill were to become law. Many reports on the possible rail strike also bandy about extremely high numbers, such as $2 billion in damages, that the stoppage would inflict on the US economy. Still, these reports often fail to disclose that it is industry groups themselves providing these numbers. Of the reportage cited in this article, only TODAY disclosed that the Chamber of Commerce and the Association of American Railroads are providing their estimations.
A FOX Business programme Mornings With Maria was oppositional in this regard, interviewing an official from the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and allowing the union to express their stance: “It would be inconceivable to most Americans not to know when you will ever get a day with your family,” he stated during the interview. He also revealed that the industry is exacerbating the supply-chain crisis itself by “running workers out of the industry” with poor conditions while operating “short-staffed” during a crucial time. “The supply chains are being crippled by the railroads themselves,” he concluded, noting that these corporations can provide more than one sick day for their workers due to their high profit margins.
The last time the American legislature intervened in a rail industry labour dispute was in 1991, when the law was enacted, forcing workers to accept the proposal offered to them by industry.
The situation is extremely uncertain at this point. Still, there is one piece of surety: the twelve railway unions will strike together if an agreement is not met by Dec 9th, and none will cross the picket line. The rail brotherhoods say they are “democratic unions” that will not accept agreements their members vote against.
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