Biden Maneuvers to Try to Avoid a Devastating Rail Strike
The Biden administration is considering executive action to try to avoid a shutdown of the nation’s rail network that would harm the economy ahead of the midterm elections.
WASHINGTON — President Biden, desperate to avert a damaging freight rail strike that could exacerbate rapid inflation, is pushing rail companies and unions to reach an agreement ahead of a Friday deadline, while exploring whether he can do anything unilaterally to assuage workers’ concerns.
Mr. Biden and his economic team have been inserting themselves into final-hour negotiations between rail unions and large rail companies, which are at loggerheads over scheduling and sick time. Labor groups have insisted that employees be able to take unpaid time off for physician appointments, a request railroad companies have been unwilling to grant.
On Wednesday, in anticipation of a strike, Amtrak said it would cancel all long-distance passenger trains beginning on Thursday in order to avoid possibly stranding people given that many of its trains run on tracks operated and maintained by freight carriers.
Also on Wednesday, members of a small rail union, whose leaders had reached a tentative deal with freight companies, voted down the agreement, signaling more difficulty in negotiations to come. And Mr. Biden’s Labor Secretary gathered union and company leaders in Washington to try to resolve the impasse, with little progress.