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President Biden announces tentative deal to avoid rail strike

The strike would've caused a massive disruption across the country
Semi hits Amtrak passenger train in south-central Wisconsin
Posted at 5:11 AM, Sep 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-15 13:57:41-04

WASHINGTON D.C.  — President Joe Biden announced a deal early Thursday morning that he says will avoid the rail strike that threatened massive disruptions across the country.

The president did not share details on the deal, but called it "a win for tens of thousands of rail workers who worked tirelessly through the pandemic."

Biden said the deal will allow railway companies to retain and recruit more workers and "continue to be a part of the backbone of the American economy."

The deal comes after hours of talks and debate.

Had a deal not been struck, the strike would've been the first in 30 years. It would come after U.S. railroad workers raised a number of concerns, including pay, strict attendance policies, and working conditions.

Without the deal, a stoppage could have begun as early as Friday that could halt shipments of food and fuel. According to one report, the shut down would cost the U.S. economy $2 billion a day.

"I thank the unions and rail companies for negotiating in good faith and reaching a tentative agreement that will keep our critical rail system working and avoid disruption of our economy," President Biden said in a statement.

More from the Associated Press:

One person familiar with the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss White House deliberations on the matter, said Biden's mindset in approaching the debate was that he's the president of the entire country, not just for organized labor.

With the economy still recovering from the supply chain disruptions of the pandemic, the president's goal is to keep all parties so a deal could be finalized. The person said the White House saw a commitment to keep negotiating in good faith as the best way to avoid a shutdown while exercising the principles of collective bargaining that Biden holds dear.

Biden also knew a stoppage could worsen the dynamics that have contributed to soaring inflation and created a political headache for the party in power.

The economic impact of a potential strike was not lost on members of the Business Roundtable, a Washington-based group that represents CEOs. It issued its quarterly outlook for the economy Wednesday.

“We’ve been experiencing a lot of headwinds from supply chain problems since the pandemic started and those problems would be geometrically magnified,” Josh Bolten, the group's CEO, told reporters. “There are manufacturing plants around the country that likely have to shut down. ... There are critical products to keep our water clean.”

The roundtable also had a meeting of its board of directors Wednesday. But Bolten said Lance Fritz, chair of the board’s international committee and the CEO of Union Pacific railroad, would miss it “because he’s working hard trying to bring the strike to a resolution.”

Back at the Labor Department, negotiators ordered Italian food as talks dragged into Wednesday night and the White House announced the agreement at 5:05 a.m. on Thursday.

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