President Joe Biden said a rail freight settlement passed in the Senate on Thursday averted a nationwide “Christmas catastrophe” days before a strike threatened to grind supply lines to a halt ahead of the holidays.
Biden, who has called himself the most pro-union president in history, said he was reluctant to override rank-and-file union workers who rejected the deal but that failure to move would prove disastrous.
“The consequences of a shutdown were just too great for working families,” Biden said in a statement on Thursday.
The president said he would sign the bill into law “as soon as Congress sends it to my desk.”
The deal does not include a sick leave policy for workers, which bipartisan lawmakers have pushed for in a separate bill.
Biden grew agitated when asked during an earlier White House press conference whether freight rail workers “deserve more than one day of paid leave.” The president responded by saying it was “a contract no one else could negotiate.”
Biden helped secure an initial agreement between the parties, holding a Rose Garden celebration on Sept. 15 after a deal was reached. But four of 12 rail unions later rejected it.