The House voted 290-137 on Wednesday to stop railroad workers from striking. The unions had set a Dec. 9 strike deadline. On Monday, President Joe Biden urged Congress to act to prevent a strike that could cripple the U.S. economy just before Christmas.
The entire Delaware Valley House delegation—Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks/Montgomery), Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery/Berks), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Delaware/Philadelphia), and Chrissy Houlahan (D-Berks/Chester) voted for the resolution.
Fitzpatrick told “Fox News Sunday” congressional intervention was the last resort. But, he said, Congress “will not let this strike happen…It would be devastating to our economy. So, we’ll get to a resolution one way or another.”
The House also passed a separate measure giving rail workers seven days of paid sick leave per year with a 221-207 vote. Three Republicans supported it, including Fitzpatrick.
Dean said on Twitter: “Rail workers deserve more paid sick leave. And the pandemic made clear that we cannot risk the health & safety of others by coming into work sick. All workers need the ability to protect their families and coworkers—and the time to care for their own health.”
The 1926 Railway Labor Act gave Congress the authority to intervene in railroad labor disputes.
The Biden administration had previously brought together negotiators from the railroads and the unions and announced a deal. However, members of some unions rejected that deal, which includes a 24 percent way increase over the term of the contract and a 14.1 percent payout immediately that amounts to $16,000 to employees whose contracts are ratified.
The bill now goes to the Senate. It was unclear when that body will vote on it. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) declined to comment. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
However, the railroads and industries that rely on them to transport products urged the Senate to act.
“Today’s strong House vote to follow the clear majority pattern and implement remaining tentative agreements clearly underscores the overwhelming bipartisan support for Congress to heed President Biden’s call and quickly avert an economically destructive national rail shutdown without modification or delay,” said AAR CEO Ian Jefferies. “The Senate must now act quickly to implement the historic deals reached at the bargaining table and already ratified by eight of twelve unions. Unless Congress wants to become the de facto endgame for future negotiations, any effort to put its thumb on the bargaining scale to artificially advantage either party or otherwise obstruct a swift resolution would be wholly irresponsible and risk a timely outcome to avoid significant economic harm.”
Mike Sommers, CEO and president of the American Petroleum Institute said, “Rail transportation is a critical part of the U.S. supply chain and is essential to the continued production and delivery of affordable, reliable energy. A disruption has the potential to reach every aspect of the U.S. economy and could hamper the U.S. gasoline supply, leading to upward pressure on prices for American consumers and businesses. We are pleased the House has taken action on this issue and urge the Senate to do the same.”