US President Joe Biden Friday signed a bill to force a settlement between railway unions and their employers, making rail strikes across the US illegal. The president praised the bipartisan action in support of the bill, saying, it spares the nation a “catastrophe.”
The US House of Representatives passed a joint resolution on the matter on Wednesday, and the Senate approved the agreement on Thursday. Biden emphasized that “A rail shutdown would have devastated our economy,” and noted that without freight rail many US industries would have shut down. A railroad strike could have cost the nation’s economy as much as $2 billion per day.
The agreement does not provide paid sick leave for railway workers. While Biden committed to securing paid leave in the future, rail unions expressed dismay at the decision. The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters National Division President Tony Cardwell said:
It is shocking and appalling that any Member of Congress would cast a vote against any sort of provision that raises the standard of living for hard-working Americans. In fact, such a vote is nothing less than anti-American, an abdication of their oath of office and you are deemed, in my eyes, unworthy of holding office.
The bill does secure a 24 percent wage increase over the next five years, improved working conditions and improved healthcare.