Biden, unions, railroad executives fight for deal as shutdown stalls

Biden, unions, railroad executives fight for deal as shutdown stalls
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DETROIT/LOS ANGELES, Sept 14 (Reuters) – Biden administration officials hosted labor contract talks late on Wednesday to avert a potential rail shutdown that could disrupt trucking and disrupt food and fuel supplies, but a small union rejected the deal. refused and Amtrak canceled them all. long-distance passenger trips.

Railroads including Union Pacific (UNP.N)Berkshire Hathaway’s (BRKa.N) BNSF and Norfolk Southern (MTN.N) You have until one minute after midnight Friday to strike deals with three storage unions representing about 60,000 workers before a work stoppage affecting freight and Amtrak.

Negotiations between the unions and the railroads, which began at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the headquarters of the US Department of Labor in Washington, lasted more than 12 hours.

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Labor Secretary Marty Walsh is overseeing the talks, along with other US officials. The parties ordered Italian food for lunch on Tuesday to continue the discussions.

“Everybody’s going to have to move a little bit to get a deal,” Buttigieg told reporters outside the Detroit auto show.

The union, which represents about 4,900 machinists, mechanics and technicians, said its members voted Wednesday to reject the original agreement.

Railroad workers have gone three years without a pay raise amid a contract dispute, while rail companies have posted strong profits.

In current negotiations, the industry has proposed annual wage increases from 2020 to 2024, which equates to a 24% compound increase. Three of the 12 unions, representing about half of the 115,000 workers affected by the talks, want better working conditions.

Two of those 12 unions, representing more than 11,000 workers, have ratified the contracts, the National Carriers Conference Committee (NCCC), which bargains on behalf of the railroads, said Wednesday.

Labor and corporate experts say unions are enjoying a boost in public and labor support after the pandemic, when “essential” workers risk exposure to COVID-19 to keep goods moving and employers reap big profits.

The shutdown would freeze almost 30% of US trucking by weight, cause inflation, cost the US economy $2 billion a day and lead to a host of transportation problems affecting the US energy, agriculture, manufacturing and retail sectors. can cause.

White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One that shutting down the freight rail system “would be an unacceptable outcome for our economy and the American people, and all parties must work to prevent it.”


President Joe Biden’s administration has begun making emergency plans to ensure the delivery of critical goods in the event of a shutdown.

Biden, who has vowed to reign in rising consumer prices ahead of the November election, will determine whether his fellow Democrats control Congress.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican and Biden critic, said, “Unless we get some progress soon, railroad workers will be on strike this Friday. If you don’t think this will have a negative impact on our economy… think again.” .

Late Wednesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders challenged a Republican proposal to unanimously approve legislation to prevent rail strikes, citing the railroad industry’s profits.

Employers can also fire workers if agreements are not reached. Railroads and unions could agree to stay at the bargaining table, or the Democratic-led U.S. Congress could step in by extending talks or setting settlement terms. read more

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it was unclear whether Congress would step in, noting that the main issue was the lack of sick leave for workers.

Amtrak, which uses tracks maintained by freight railroads, said Thursday it would cancel all long-distance trips and some additional state-backed trains. read more

Rail hubs in Chicago and Dallas were already congested and suffering from equipment shortages before the contract was announced. These bottlenecks back up cargo at US seaports for up to a month. And shipments can sit for a month or more after arriving at rail hubs in places like Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City and Memphis, Tennessee.

Package delivery company United Parcel Service (UPS.N)One of the largest U.S. rail customers and U.S. seaports said they were working on contingency plans.

Meanwhile, plant owners are worried about idling machines, and automakers are concerned that the shutdown will increase waiting times for car buyers. Elsewhere, food and energy companies are warning that further service disruptions could trigger even steeper price increases.

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Reporting by David Shepardson and Lisa Baertlein; Additional reporting by Jeff Mason on Air Force One; Joe White in Detroit; Chris Walljasper in Chicago and Abhijith Ganapavaram in Bengaluru; Edited by Will Dunham, Jonathan Oatis, Bill Berkrot and Michael Perry

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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