President Joe Biden on Monday called on lawmakers to quickly pass a labor deal that would prevent what he called a “potentially crippling national rail shutdown” starting Dec. 9.
The tentative agreement, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would vote on this week, is aimed at avoiding a freight strike just two weeks before Christmas, but has divided workers into two of the largest rail unions. greats of the country
Biden urged lawmakers to adopt the tentative agreement between rail workers and operators “without modification or delay,” warning that the economic fallout from shutting down the nation’s freight trains would “devastate” the economy.
“As a proud labor president, I am reluctant to quash ratification procedures and the views of those who voted against the deal,” Biden said in a statement. “But in this case, where the economic impact of a shutdown would hurt millions of workers and families, I think Congress should use its powers to adopt this deal.”
“Congress should send this bill to my desk well before December 9 so we can avoid disruption,” he added.
The tentative agreement, which was approved by labor and management negotiators in September, would provide a 24% wage increase for rail workers and better health care benefits, Biden said.
However, the 28,000-member SMART-TD union, which represents rail drivers, rejected the contract after one of its divisions rejected it. Meanwhile, members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive and Train Engineers, which represents some 24,000 freight train engineers, voted in favor of the agreement.
Shortly after Biden’s statement, Pelosi said the tentative deal would be considered by the House soon.
“This week, the House of Representatives will take up a bill that adopts the Tentative Agreement, without poison pills or changes to the negotiated terms, and send it to the Senate,” it said in a statement.
Eli M Rosenberg contributed.