A nationwide freight rail strike is seen as increasingly inevitable as four rail workers’ unions refuse to reach a tentative deal with rail companies.

In September, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh brokered a tentative deal between the railroad union and the railroad operator while President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg were out. While the union’s focus is on sick leave and scheduling, Walsh’s job appears to have avoided a strike that could have far-reaching consequences for the U.S. economy. However, the deal has fallen apart and the clock is ticking as the Dec. 9 strike looms.

On Monday, members of SMART Transportation Division, the largest railroad union involved in negotiations in September, voted against the deal, Bloomberg Law’s Ian Kullgren reported. Three other unions also rejected the proposed deal, while seven agreed to the terms.

If the railroad and the union fail to broker a new agreement, Congress could “intervene and impose contract terms on the railroad workers,” as it did during the last railroad strike in 1992, according to the Associated Press. If neither of the potential solutions materializes, the strike will go into effect early next month. In such a scenario, U.S. consumers could be gripped by far-reaching economic turmoil, and Congressional intervention would become increasingly likely.

fed inflation

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh speaks at a White House event in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Martin)

Jared Cassity, alternate legislative director for the SMART Department of Transportation, noted that he has lowered expectations for the railroads’ willingness to negotiate further with the union, claiming that the possibility of Congressional involvement gives carriers the ability to refuse to budge, according to Kullgren. Cassity also hinted at a strike It seems inevitable.

Unified Interface

A disruptive U.S. freight rail strike remains a possibility as major unions split their vote. (UPI)

“I’m not optimistic about the railroad’s willingness to negotiate more,” Cassidy said. “I’m hopeful, but really not that optimistic. At this point, there’s really nothing to force them to give more.”

“We’re at the tail end of the Railroad Labor Act, and the end result is a lockout or a strike. That’s where we are,” he said.

Associated Press

Freight trains stop at the Norfolk Southern Railroad yard in Atlanta, Sept. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Danny Carnick)

Echoing Cassity’s sentiments, Dennis Pierce, president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and the Trainmen, said, “Staying out of Congress will obviously give [sic] Unions play a role,” as CNN Business noted.

Associated Press

President Joe Biden speaks at the White House in Washington, October 21, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Biden and his pro-union Democrats in Congress face a tough political dilemma. A prolonged strike would have a negative economic impact on Americans, who are already bearing the brunt of high inflation not seen in decades. If Congress does intervene, the terms of its legislation could irritate the very unionized workers they claim to support.

On Monday, a White House official said the strike was “unacceptable,” Kulgren said:

As the President has said from the beginning, a shutdown is unacceptable because it will harm jobs, families, farms, businesses and communities across the country. A majority of unions voted for a tentative agreement, and the best option remains for the parties to work it out themselves.

According to the Associated Press, the railroads estimated that about $2 billion per day would be lost from the U.S. economy during the strikes:

Rail transports approximately 40% of the nation’s freight volume each year.The railway department estimates that the railway strike will cost the economy $2 billion A day in a report released earlier this fall. Another recent report compiled by the chemical industry trade group predicted that about 700,000 jobs would be lost if the strike lasted a month, as manufacturers dependent on railroads would close, prices of nearly everything would rise more and the economy could suffer. push into recession.

Although some businesses will try to move goods to trucks, there are not enough trucks available. The Association of American Railroads trade group estimates that an additional 467,000 trucks will be needed each day to handle all the freight moving by rail.

As families prepare for Christmas and Hanukkah, the ability to move critical chemicals, packaged food for humans, food for livestock and retail goods will be greatly impacted.

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