WASHINGTON — Lawmakers are trying to stop a railroad strike that could devastate the country’s economy.
Railroad companies and workers’ unions are deadlocked in negotiations over a new labor contract. They’ve been going back and forth for several months but still don’t have a deal.
Right now, the sticking point is over paid sick leave, which some unions are fighting for. If they don’t reach an agreement by Dec. 9, it could mean a strike.
A strike could hurt supply chains, drive up prices, and result in thousands of lost jobs.
President Joe Biden is a long-time supporter of unions, but now he’s asking lawmakers to step in and pass legislation that would force the unions to accept the new contract.
“Congress I think has to act to prevent it,” Biden said. “It’s not an easy call but I think we have to do it. The economy is at risk.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said she doesn’t like getting involved but will have the House vote on legislation on Wednesday.
“It’s not everything I would like to see. I think that we should have paid sick leave,” Pelosi said. “Weighing the equities, we must avoid a strike.”
Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said it’s unfortunate it’s reached this point.
“If you’re passing a bill to force the rail workers to work, how strong is your economy?” McCarthy said.
Senate leaders are also ready to act if needed.
“We’re going to try and solve this ASAP,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said.
Still, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, is holding out hope the unions will reach an agreement on their own. Though he says avoiding a strike is the ultimate priority.
“We do need to avert the shutdown, it would be catastrophic for the economy,” Kaine said.
However, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, isn’t on board.
“I’m not voting for a deal that the workers themselves rejected,” Rubio said.