The tentative agreement reached in September provided all the good stuff Pelosi referred to in her statement, but left out paid sick days and the end to attendance policies that penalize workers for taking time off. Laura Clawson wrote about the grueling schedules these employees are forced to work.
“Freight rail workers face brutal schedules, forcing them to be on call up to 12 hours a day for 14 days in a row. They don’t get sick days, paid or unpaid. While they can get up to five weeks of vacation and 14 paid holidays, that’s in the context of being on call on many weekends and facing penalties if they take any time off without planning ahead to use vacation time,” Laura explained. Companies even refuse to allow railworkers to take unpaid time off for doctor’s appointments.
Four of the 12 rail unions rejected the tentative contract, but the other eight have vowed to honor the picket lines of any of the unions that decide to strike. The National Railway Labor Conference and The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (BMWED) argued after Biden’s statement that having Congress impose this contract doesn’t fix any of the underlying problems stemming from supply chain issues or answer the concerns of railway workers.
“It both denies railroad workers their right to strike while also denying them of the benefit they would likely otherwise obtain if they were not denied their right to strike,” the statement says. “Additionally, passing legislation to adopt tentative agreements that exclude paid sick leave for railroad workers will not address rail service issues. Rather, it will worsen supply chain issues and further sicken, infuriate, and disenfranchise railroad workers as they continue shouldering the burdens of the railroads’ mismanagement.”
Biden is clearly sympathetic to the unions, but more concerned about the economic impact of a strike that would shut down both freight and passenger trains right before the Christmas holiday. “As a proud pro-labor President, I am reluctant to override the ratification procedures and the views of those who voted against the agreement,” Bide 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 powers to adopt this deal.”
There’s a potential hang-up in the Senate, where moving the bill through quickly needs to be unanimous (all 100 senators have to agree to bring it to the floor without a raft of procedural votes). Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) initial response isn’t supportive. “We will have more to say about that later,” he told CNN’s Manu Raju about the upcoming vote. He also blasted the deal for not including paid sick leave. “That is outrageous.”
On the other side, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) trolled, tweeting that the “railways & workers should go back & negotiate a deal that the workers, not just the union bosses, will accept.” Because he’s such a man of the people. “But if Congress is forced to do it, I will not vote to impose a deal that doesn’t have the support of the rail workers.”
There is another option for Congress, rather than forcing this tentative deal on the workers. It could extend the cooling-off period that’s been in place since September, allowing more time for negotiations. It could also force both sides into arbitration.
Election season overtime is finally winding down, so Democratic operative Joe Sudbay joins David Nir on The Downballot as a guest-host this week to recap some of the last results that have just trickled in. At the top of the list is the race for Arizona attorney general, where Democrat Kris Mayes has a 510-vote lead with all ballots counted (a mandatory recount is unlikely to change the outcome). Also on the agenda is Arizona's successful Proposition 308, which will allow students to receive financial aid regardless of immigration status.
Freight rail workers may strike over bosses' outrageous scheduling demands
Early reports suggest tentative deal to avert rail strike is a win for workers
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