WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden believes unions built the middle class, but he also knew that a railroad workers’ strike could hurt the economy before the midterm elections.
That put him in the awkward position of upholding the virtues of unionization in Detroit, a heavyweight in the labor movement, which members of his administration did their best to maintain. Negotiations taking place in Washington between railroad companies and union workers in hopes of avoiding the shutdown.
But after a long night, negotiations were successful and Biden announced on Thursday that both parties had reached a tentative agreement to avoid a shutdown that sent union members to vote.The Democratic president said in a statement. hailed the deal as a win for all sides, avoiding a shutdown.
“These railroad workers will get higher wages, better working conditions and peace of mind about their medical bills, all of which are hard earned,” Biden said. “This deal is also a win for the railroad companies, which will be able to secure and recruit more workers for an industry that will remain part of the backbone of the American economy for decades to come.”
For the president just one day ago, it seemed much more tenuous.
Ryan Buchalski, a member of United Auto Workers Local 598, said at the Detroit Auto Show Wednesday that Biden was “the most union and worker-friendly president in American history” and a “working class leader.” He introduced himself as a person who is kicking his butt for the sake of it. Buchalski recalled the pivotal sit-down strikes by auto workers in the 1930s.
In a subsequent speech, Biden said auto workers “took me to the dance” and said he wouldn’t have been in the White House without the support of trade unions such as the UAW and Brotherhood of Electric Workers International. I recognized that I was deaf.
But back in Washington, his administration officials at the Labor Department were in tense negotiations to prevent a strike. Strikes are one of the most powerful sources of influence unions need to bring about change and improve working conditions.
Without an agreement agreed between the 12 unions, a shutdown that could halt food and fuel shipments at a cost of $2 billion a day could have begun on Friday.
Much more was at stake than sick leave and pay increases for the 115,000 organized rail workers. The impact could extend to the control of Congress and the shipping network that keeps factories running, stocks store shelves, and ties the United States together as an economic powerhouse.
That’s why White House Press Secretary Carine Jean-Pierre said on board Air Force One on Wednesday when it left for Detroit that the rail workers’ strike was “an unacceptable outcome for the economy and the American people.” . Representatives of railroad companies and their workers “need to stay at the table and negotiate in good faith to resolve outstanding issues and reach agreements,” she said.
Biden faced the same predicament that Theodore Roosevelt in 1902 faced with coal and Harry Truman in 1952 with steel. Railroads were so important during World War I that Woodrow Wilson temporarily nationalized the industry to keep supplies flowing and prevent strikes.
Aides inside the White House see no conflict between Biden’s dedication to the union and his desire to avoid a strike. Union activism has soared under Biden, with union representatives’ petitions to the National Labor Relations Commission so far this fiscal year up 56%.
A person familiar with the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the White House deliberations on the issue, said the thinking in Biden’s approach to the debate was not just for organized labor, but for the nation as a whole. He said that he was the president of
As the economy recovers from supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic, the president’s goal is to keep all parties on board so the deal can be finalized. The White House saw a commitment to continue negotiations in good faith as the best way to avoid a shutdown while exercising the principles of collective bargaining that Biden holds dear, the person said.
Biden also knew the outage could exacerbate the dynamics it caused soaring inflation And it has created a political headache for the ruling party.
Eddie Vale, a Democratic political consultant and former AFL-CIO communications aide, said the White House pursued the right approach at a dangerous time.
“No one wants a railroad strike, neither the corporations, nor the workers, nor the White House,” he said. “Nobody wants the election to be this close.”
Vale added that the talks impasse was “fundamentally about respect, sick leave and bereavement leave,” an issue Biden has championed in his speeches and policy proposals.
Sensing a political opportunity, Senate Republicans moved Wednesday to pass a law imposing contract terms on unions and railroad companies to avoid a shutdown. Democrats, who control both houses of Congress, blocked it.
“If there is a strike that paralyzes the transportation of food, fertilizer and energy across the country, it will be because Democrats blocked this bill,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky).
The potential economic impact of the strike was not lost on members of the Business Roundtable, a Washington-based group representing CEOs. It released its quarterly outlook for the economy on Wednesday.
“Since the pandemic began, we have experienced many headwinds from supply chain issues, and those issues will be geometrically magnified,” Group CEO Josh Bolten told reporters. “There are manufacturing plants across the country that will probably have to close. There are products that are critical to keeping our water clean.”
The roundtable also held a board meeting on Wednesday. But Bolten said Lance Fritz, chairman of the board’s international committee and CEO of Union Pacific Railroad, would miss it “because he’s working hard to resolve the strike.” rice field.
Back at the Labor Department, negotiations dragged on Wednesday night, with the White House announcing the deal at 5:05 a.m. Thursday, so negotiators ordered Italian food.
https://www.npr.org/2022/09/15/1123114110/biden-says-a-tentative-railway-labor-deal-has-been-reached-averting-a-strike Biden says interim railroad deal reached, averted strike : NPR