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Tipsheet

Joe Biden Knows There Could Still Be a Rail Strike, Right?

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Spencer highlighted the brief, but factually inaccurate remarks made by White House Steward Joe Biden when he announced that a devastating rail strike had been averted for now. He called it a win for working-class Americans and the country, which isn’t wrong until he mentioned how prices are coming down. Inflation is still high, with a recent consumer price index report that was so bad it sent the markets crashing to the tune of $1.5 trillion wiped off the books. 

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The foundations for this potential strike were centered around twelve unions, two of which refused to sign onto a new labor agreement unless there were some ironclad details worked out over sick leave and missed work penalties. This issue has been a cancer for the Biden White House since spring, but like a college student waiting until the last minute to turn in an exam paper, they pulled an all-nighter and got it done. That’s not how it should work, given the devastating economic impacts this strike would have inflicted upon American families. For farmers, it would have been even more apocalyptic given that essential resources for harvest time would have shuttered. 

Yet, the threat of a labor strike still looms, and we could revisit this area within a few weeks if the unions’ rank-and-file refuse to ratify the agreement. Still, the Biden White House accomplished its goal of averting a crisis that could further sink their 2022 midterm hopes and exacerbate the nation’s economic tailspin. It bought them time, a critical buffer ahead of the elections, though CNN, of all places, was the place to throw a wet blanket on the tentative labor union agreement. The liberal outlet noted the trend with union members rejecting new deals even with the endorsement of its leadership (via CNN):

The tentative deal reached early Thursday after a marathon 20-hour bargaining session between the railroads and the leaders of the engineers and conductors union means the strike that had been due to start at 12:01 am ET Friday will not occur. But the agreement still needs to be ratified by rank-and-file union members for it to go into effect.

The details of the ratification vote have yet to be set but it is likely weeks away. Alhough the unions' leadership described the agreement as a negotiating win, a successful ratification vote is not yet assured.

Some union members appeared to criticize the deal on social media.

Rank and file union members working in other industries have recently balked at approving their deals, even when recommended by their unions' leadership. While most union contracts are ratified, there have been some very high-profile examples of angry union members voting no.

About 10,000 members of the United Auto Workers union at farm equipment maker John Deere (DE) went on strike last fall after rejecting a lucrative tentative agreement. That rejected offer included immediate raises in their base pay of 5% to 6%, and additional wage increases later in the contract that could have increased average pay by about 20% over the six years. And it had a cost-of-living adjustment that would give them additional pay based up other rate inflation.

But more than 90% of the UAW members at Deere voted no and went on strike, and then stayed on strike after rejecting a subsequent deal. They finally returned to work after five weeks after a third vote on a similar package passed.

Striking workers at cereal maker Kellogg (K) also rejected a tentative deal and decided to stay on strike in December before finally agreeing to deal weeks later.

And only 50.3% of film production workers voted in favor of a deal last fall that achieved virtually all bargaining goals of their union…

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So, Amtrak Joe: rail strike edition could be coming again to a political theater near you, albeit with no pressure of an election. Biden still must deal with soaring prices and high inflation. The irony of the rail strike crisis is that Biden didn’t solve it. He only bought some time to prevent an election day disaster. The rail agreement could collapse as the rank-and-file vote on this tentative deal in the proceeding weeks. Given the political acumen of our current political leadership, don’t be shocked if things fall apart. In which case, the Biden White House’s pervasive incompetence would be displayed for all to see again. 

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