The Senate has passed legislation to impose an agreement between rail companies and labor in an effort to avoid a railroad strike that could have serious impacts on the U.S. economy.
Per a recent report from Bloomberg, the new legislation was passed in an 80 to 15 vote and now heads to President Joe Biden for a signature, just ahead of next week’s strike deadline. Senate approval was given a day after the House approved the measure in a 290 to 137 bipartisan vote.
The legislation imposes a labor agreement reached between rail companies and labor leaders in September. Biden, a self-described “proud pro-labor” president, weighed in heavily on the negotiations. The labor agreement was subsequently struck down after four of the 12 labor unions voted against it, with an estimated 54,500 workers voting to reject the deal, and 43,000 workers voting to adopt it.
Earlier this week, President Biden urged Congress to avoid a potential railroad strike, stating that the larger economic considerations were now his primary concern. Top Democrats also backed the bill, highlighting that the labor agreement includes wage increases and no rise in insurance costs. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that 750,000 jobs would be lost in just two weeks in the event of a railroad strike.
Republican lawmakers agreed to quick consideration of the rail bill, despite misgivings over interfering with the labor market. Wyoming Republican Cynthia Lummis and North Dakota Republican Kevin Cramer urged Senate Republicans to support the bill, indicating that a railroad strike would result in widespread job losses.
“Our response at this moment will determine whether rail workers receive their next paycheck, whether families can put food on the table this holiday season, and even whether the lights turn on,” the Senators Lummis and Cramer wrote in a letter to Senate Republicans.
Meanwhile, an effort led by independent Senator Bernie Sanders to amend the deal to include seven days of paid sick leave, a major sticking point for workers, passed the House in a 221 to 207 vote, but failed in the Senate on a 52 to 43 vote, eight votes shy of the 60 votes needed to pass it.