inside sources print logo
Get up to date Delaware Valley news in your inbox

PA Senators Split on Vote to Derail Strike

A day after the U.S. House of Representatives acted to scotch a railroad workers’ strike, the Senate followed suit Thursday with an 80-15 vote of its own.

While several unions had approved a deal worked out by the Biden administration and the union leaders in September, a handful balked and threatened a strike. That could have crippled the U.S. economy just before Christmas.

On Monday, President Joe Biden called on Congress to act.

However, the Senate rejected an accompanying bill from the House that would have allowed seven days of paid sick leave for unionized workers.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) was one of several Republicans who voted for the sick leave provision, then joined five members of the Democratic caucus — Sens. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), an independent, as well as John Hickenlooper (Colo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Ed Markey (Mass.) — in voting no to the strike measure.

“In an effort to prevent a strike, I voted to extend deliberations. Congress should not dictate terms nor intervene in these private negotiations,” Toomey said afterward. “In fact, it would be my preference that Congress would not play any role here.”

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) expressed his view on Twitter. “The tentative agreement brokered by President Biden and Secretary Walsh makes meaningful improvements in the lives of railway workers. It’s a good start, but it’s not enough.” Casey urged the Senate to insert the additional paid sick leave benefits.

Under the agreement wages will rise 24 percent by 2024, including an immediate 14 percent pay increase, giving rail workers an average salary of $110,000 a year.

Rail industry officials were pleased and relieved.

“The Senate acted with leadership and urgency with today’s vote to avert an economically devastating rail work stoppage,” said American Association of Railway President and CEO Ian Jefferies. “As we close out this long, challenging process, none of the parties achieved everything they advocated for. The product of these agreements is a compromise by nature, but the result is one of substantial gains for rail employees. More broadly, all rail stakeholders and the economy writ large now have certainty about the path forward.

“Let’s be clear railroading is tough, essential work that keeps our nation moving, and our employees deserve our gratitude for moving America’s freight and doing so safely every day. The gains in this agreement are significant, including historic wage increases, best-in-class healthcare, and meaningful progress in creating more predictable, scheduled work shifts. Without a doubt, there is more to be done to further address our employees’ work-life balance concerns, but it is clear this agreement maintains rail’s place among the best jobs in our nation.”

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or

DelVal Reps Back House Resolution to Prevent Railroad Strike

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.”

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or