House Passes Legislation To Avoid A Nationwide Rail Strike. Bernie Sanders Intends To Block It.
UNITED STATES - JULY 20: Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during the news conference in the Capitol on Tuesday, July 20, 2021, to announce legislation which would require the president to consult with congressional leaders and obtain congressional authorization before exercising certain national security powers.
Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

After the House of Representatives advanced a bill on Wednesday meant to avert a looming nationwide rail strike, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) vowed to block the measure in the Senate.

Unions and rail companies previously agreed to a tentative deal providing workers a 24% pay raise and more robust healthcare benefits, although a handful of labor organizations rejected the agreement due to a lack of paid sick days. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in a letter to lawmakers on Tuesday evening that the lower chamber would “take action to protect the economic security of America’s working families and avert a devastating nationwide rail strike,” echoing a call from President Joe Biden.

Legislation enforcing the tentative agreement passed on Wednesday by a margin of 290 to 137, with eight Democrats and 129 Republicans voting against the bill. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) affirmed that the upper chamber would move as quickly as possible to advance the bill to the White House.

Sanders, however, remarked on social media that workers should receive at least seven paid sick days as rail companies earn “record profits.” He intends to “block consideration of the rail legislation” until a roll call vote guarantees workers the benefit.

Biden meanwhile thanked members of both parties in the House for advancing the legislation and stressed the urgency of deliberations in the Senate.

“Without the certainty of a final vote to avoid a shutdown this week, railroads will begin to halt the movement of critical materials like chemicals to clean our drinking water as soon as this weekend,” he said in a statement. “Without action this week, disruptions to our auto supply chains, our ability to move food to tables, and our ability to remove hazardous waste from gasoline refineries will begin.”

The daily economic cost of a nationwide rail shutdown could amount to $2 billion, according to a report from the Association of American Railroads, while a letter from the Retail Industry Leaders Association addressed to Biden noted that freight rail accounts for 40% of long-distance shipping volume in the United States. Members of Congress can exercise authority over interstate commerce to intervene in rail labor negotiations under the Railway Labor Act of 1926.

Hundreds of business groups have encouraged Congress to compel acceptance of the tentative agreement. A statement from the National Retail Federation lauded the House for approving the legislation.

“America’s railroads serve nearly every sector of our economy and provide access to global markets. The freight rail system is a lifeline for many industries, ensuring the transport of not only retail goods, but also essential food and energy supplies,” the group said. “It is imperative that the Senate now acts immediately to approve the measure and send it to President Biden’s desk.”

Biden and Pelosi have expressed reluctance to disrupt union negotiations since the commander-in-chief campaigned for the Oval Office in favor of collective bargaining. One of the unions which rejected the tentative agreement said that the organization “is deeply disappointed by and disagrees with” actions from the Biden administration to prevent the strike.

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  House Passes Legislation To Avoid A Nationwide Rail Strike. Bernie Sanders Intends To Block It.