Train on tracks in the snow

(Photo: Iowa Soybean Association)

President’s signature marks an end to rail dispute

December 8, 2022 | Joseph Hopper

Months of railroad contract negotiations have ended with President Joe Biden’s signature, avoiding a potential strike as the holiday season nears. While a tentative agreement was reached back in September, Biden called for action from Congress to avoid a rail shutdown with a Dec. 9 strike deadline looming. The tentative agreement between railroad workers and operators – which had been ratified by all but four unions – was passed by the House at a 290-137 vote, and at 80-15 in the Senate before being signed into law on Dec. 2.

President Biden touted the Congressional action as sparing the nation from a “Christmas catastrophe.”

 “Congress’ decisive action ensures that we will avoid the impending, devastating economic consequences for workers, families, and communities across the country,” Biden says in an official statement. “Communities will maintain access to clean drinking water. Farmers and ranchers will continue to be able to bring food to market and feed their livestock. And hundreds of thousands of Americans in a number of industries will keep their jobs.

He added, “I know that many in Congress shared my reluctance to override the union ratification procedures. But in this case, the consequences of a shutdown were just too great for working families all across the country. And, the agreement will raise workers’ wages by 24%, increase health care benefits, and preserve two person crews.”

Soy Transportation Coalition Executive Director Mike Steenhoek says industries that depend on reliable rail service are breathing a sigh of relief, having avoided any supply chain disruptions.

“We are very pleased both the House and the Senate responded quickly to President Biden’s call for Congress to act to prevent a potential railroad strike,” says Steenhoek.  “Throughout the negotiation process, we did not take a side between railroads and railroad workers. However, we clearly are on the side of the American farmer, who would have been harmed if a shutdown would have been allowed to occur. Our preference was for the contract negotiations to be conducted and concluded by the two parties alone, but when those negotiations had reached an impasse and a shutdown was increasingly becoming a possibility, many agricultural and other organizations urged the President and Congress to intervene.

“We are pleased our elected officials were responsive to the concerns of agriculture and others and took the necessary action to prevent this significant supply chain disruption from occurring.”