The US House of Representatives passed legislation on Wednesday to stave off a national railroad strike, but questions remain about whether the effort can exonerate the 50-50 Senate.
By a vote of 290 to 137, House lawmakers passed legislation that prevented nearly 100,000 railroad workers from striking in early December. Economists and the White House have warned that a railroad strike could paralyze the country’s economy ahead of the holiday season.
“We must act to prevent a catastrophic strike that would affect the lives of almost every family,” he said Speaker of the House Nancy PelosiD-California.
The legislation gives unionized train drivers and conductors three unpaid sick days per year for medical appointments, provided employers are given at least 30 days’ notice of the time off. It is based on an agreement that railway companies and transport unions agreed in September. Eight unions have already adopted the agreement, four not yet.
The stalemate between the remaining unions and the railroad companies has failed to resolve itself, even as White House officials have become increasingly involved. President Biden said the lack of a breakthrough forced him to ask Congress to intervene and prevent a strike.
“I call on Congress to immediately pass legislation to pass the preliminary agreement between railroad workers and operators — without any amendment or delay — to prevent a potentially crippling national railroad shutdown,” Biden said in a statement Monday.
“A rail closure would devastate our economy,” Biden said. “Without rail freight, many American industries would shut down.”
Progressives have criticized Biden’s decision to ask Congress to intervene. Far-left legislators, such as Senator Bernie SandersI-Vt., say Biden’s request for Congress to pass legislation preventing nearly 100,000 railroad workers from striking was inappropriate as unions continued to push for broader paid sick leave.
“If the railroad industry can afford to spend $25.5 billion this year to buy back its own stock and pay huge dividends to its wealthy shareholders, please don’t tell me it can’t afford to to guarantee paid sick days to its employees and to give them a guarantee.” decent quality of life,” Sanders said.
The House also passed a separate bill 221-207 on Wednesday, giving railroad workers an additional seven days of sick leave. It remains to be seen whether it will be included in the version that the 50-50 split Senate will pass.
Within the Senate, it takes at least 10 Republican votes for the legislation to overcome a filibuster, provided all 50 Democrats join.
Kelly Laco of FOX Business contributed to this report.