(Washington) US President Joe Biden on Tuesday called on Congress to pass urgent legislation to avert an economically disastrous and politically unpopular rail freight strike.
The 80-year-old Democrat said mass walkouts “must be avoided by Congress,” but is an outspoken supporter of social dialogue and unions.
“It’s not an easy decision to take, but I think we have to do it. The economy is at stake,” he said while receiving Congress leaders.
On the Democratic side, he invited Nancy Pelosi, the boss of the House of Representatives, and Chuck Schumer, the leader of his party in the Senate.
On the Republican side, Joe Biden received Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Republicans in the Senate, where Democrats hold the majority, as well as Kevin McCarthy, the leader of the Republican group in the House, who will pass the opposite in January. Under the control of conservatives.
Democrat Chuck Schumer and Republican Mitch McConnell signaled their desire to resolve the social conflict “as quickly as possible” by shutting down nearly 7,000 freight trains and costing more than $2 billion a day, according to the American Railroad Association.
Nancy Pelosi assured her that the House of Representatives would vote on the issue on Wednesday. The text then goes to the Senate.
Rail freight could face a major strike after December 9 if the 12 unions concerned fail to ratify a new branch agreement on wages and working conditions.
In the United States, about 28% of goods travel by rail.
The National Distribution Federation (NRF) has already warned of the potential “catastrophic” effects of the strike.
If the new branch votes to impose a contract, Congress can block it under the 1926 law.
It remains to be seen whether all Republicans, who in theory hold liberal positions on the economy, will follow the movement to prevent a strike.
Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, for example, tweeted that he “will not vote for a deal that does not have the support of labor.”
The conservative opposition knows the controversy is a serious political setback for Joe Biden, who is personally invested in the file.
This comes as the president, who was revived by better-than-expected legislative elections for his party, is mulling a re-election bid in 2024.
BMWE-IBT, one of the unions concerned, said in a press release that they were deeply disappointed by the American president’s decision to appeal to Congress. He already said the claim at the heart of the conflict with employers, over sick leave payment, “isn’t going away. »