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Tipsheet

Biden Gets Lucky As He Averts Owning a Devastating Rail Strike at the Last Minute

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

The Biden administration had to get this done. An agreement between the railway companies and the unions had to have been a beyond “must pass” action item for Biden’s staff. The economic fallout would have been devastating and the political fallout equally shattering. There was talk on the Hill about Congress imposing a settlement to avert a strike, which would have put Democrats into a precarious position. Then again, the cessation of 30 percent of this nation’s goods transported via railway, which carried a daily cost of $2 billion/day, and the end of virtually all commuter routes put the world's weight on Biden, who unsurprisingly didn’t break. 

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An agreement was reached today, which Biden announced in brief remarks since the negotiators were up all night. I do not doubt that, but the looming strike is a crisis the White House has been grappling with since spring, which was mostly centered over contractual clarity regarding missed work penalties and sick leave. Ten of the twelve unions signed off on the tentative deal, while two of the largest and most powerful unions, which represent engineers and conductors, balked. The other ten had announced they would strike out of solidarity, and this crazy train ride got underway (via NBC News):

The White House has struck a tentative deal to avoid a rail strike that threatened major disruptions across the United States, with freight workers securing a key demand under its terms, President Joe Biden said Thursday morning.

The tentative pact highlights the labor movement’s growing influence under an administration that has cast itself as a staunch ally of labor, and comes after business groups and political officials warned that a strike would disrupt passenger services and cripple supply chains.

For the president and fellow Democrats, the deal also offers a measure of political relief after mounting fears that the economic fallout from a strike could further squeeze households hit by stubbornly high inflation.

“This agreement is a big win for America,” Biden said at the White House Thursday in remarks thanking representatives for the unions and rail carriers, saying the negotiators had stayed up for 20 hours of marathon talks as a Friday deadline loomed.

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For now, there will be no strike at 12:01 am Friday, but that doesn’t mean the threat of one has subsided. 

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