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Should Congress take ‘immediate steps’ to stop rail strike?

More than 400 groups have called on Congress to take “immediate steps” to stop a railroad strike that could freeze almost 30% of U.S. cargo shipments and cost the economy as much as $2 billion per day, Reuters reports.

The urgency comes as rail workers in four unions have rejected a proposed contract. The major sticking points are paid sick leave and more flexible scheduling, NewsNation affiliate The Hill reports. Eight unions agreed to the conditions. 

Negotiators have until Dec. 9 to come to an agreement.

Congress has the authority to block a strike and push through the tentative agreement reached in September, which would bring the average rail worker compensation to $160,000 including benefits. 

Yet union leaders say, “Railroads are refusing to meet workers’ demands because they know Congress would likely intervene to block a strike,” The Hill reports, sapping their leverage at the bargaining table.

Several groups — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, National Retail Federation, American Petroleum Institute, National Restaurant Association, American Trucking Associations and American Farm Bureau Federation — are arguing the cost of a stoppage to the rail system would be catastrophic to an economy already battered by inflation, layoffs and supply chain woes.

They say it could affect every major economic sector, including energy, agriculture, manufacturing, health care and retail, and could disrupt as many as 7 million Americans’ commutes. 

Tech companies have already begun rerouting critical chip supplies to trucking routes in anticipation, CNBC reports

It is unlikely stoppages would have an impact on holiday shopping, as much of those goods are already in warehouses. Still, delays could be felt throughout the supply chain long into 2023.

The public has said they want to avoid a rail strike, with 71% saying it’s “very important.,” according to a poll commissioned by the Association of American Railroads.
Meanwhile, rail strikes are also causing delays and supply chain concerns in the United Kingdom and Australia.