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As the Biden administration scrambles days to avert a rail strike that threatens to deal a devastating blow to the economy, the White House faces pressure on multiple fronts as it weighs in on the political effects of the shutdown. does weight.

If no agreement is reached before that time between major rail companies and four unions that do not agree with the current resolution appointed by the President’s Emergency Board (PEB), a strike could come as soon as Friday midnight. by President Biden.


Labor Secretary Marty Walsh is now involved in the talks, and President Biden himself has reached out to the parties involved. But if negotiations are not successful by the deadline, a strike or a lockout may begin.

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According to the Association of American Railroads (AAR), a shutdown would be absolutely catastrophic, costing more than $2 billion per day and shutting down an already fragile supply chain, harming businesses and consumers alike.

Unions accuse Railways of ‘corporate terrorism’ as strike deadline nears

What’s worse is that other modes of transportation can’t move: The AAR says it would take about 467,000 long-haul trucks to lift this slack, an unlikely task given the 80,000 truck drivers already in the industry today. There is a shortage.

With the stakes high, Congress is expected to get involved if the strike begins. But it introduces more complications. Whether the strike takes place or not, the timing of the impasse could jeopardize the administration and Democrats as a whole, putting weak lawmakers in trouble ahead of the upcoming midterm elections in November.

A goods train parked in the rail yard

Mark Scribner, a senior transportation policy analyst at the Reason Foundation, says the timing of the possible strike was coordinated and may not have helped the administration.

“This could happen just before the midterm election, completely self-inflicted by the Biden administration, where the two presidents of Biden’s national arbitration board [NMB] Members took the bizarre step of ending board-directed arbitration two months earlier in June and starting a 90-day countdown to a potential rail strike,” Scribner told Fox Business as “unprecedented.”

Plans to pursue rail contract dispute include 24% increase

Scribner says that if NMB had stuck to the original schedule, the cooling-off period would have ended in mid-November. But instead, the board decided to cut things short.

“It was clearly designed to force a flash just before the midterm election,” Scribner argues, speculating that the administration knows it can rely on Congress with unified Democratic control. “But I don’t think they thought it all through because it puts a lot of pressure on the Democrats to race harder,” he said.

A BNSF train pulls out of the yard

Scribner says the mood on Capitol Hill is very negative toward such actions because it puts lawmakers in the crosshairs – especially when two major rail union holdouts are warning Congress not to get involved.

Leaders of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) Transportation Division and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) Teamsters Rail Conference issued a joint statement over the weekend saying they would not agree with PEB’s proposal because work in it to improve the circumstances, declaring that the panel’s “recommendation on this issue is incorrect.”

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Union leaders wrote, “It is time for the federal government to tell the CEOs who run the nation’s railroads on the ground that enough is enough.” “Congress should stay away from rail disputes and tell railroads to do what other business leaders do – sit down and negotiate a contract that your employees will accept.”