Senate rejects two-month cool-off period as rail strike looms

Railroad Contract Talks
FILE – Freight train cars sit in a Norfolk Southern rail yard on Sept. 14, 2022, in Atlanta. Business groups are increasing the pressure on lawmakers to intervene and block a railroad strike before next month’s deadline in the stalled contract talks. A coalition of more than 400 business groups sent a letter to Congressional leaders Monday, Nov. 28, 2022 urging them to step in because of fears about the devastating potential impact of a strike that could force many businesses to shut down. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik, File) Danny Karnik/AP

Senate rejects two-month cool-off period as rail strike looms

The Senate on Thursday voted down an amendment that would impose a two-month cool-off period as railway unions threaten a strike that could damage the economy.

In a 26 to 69 vote, the upper chamber rejected an amendment introduced by Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) that is separate from a tentative labor agreement the House passed the day before.

HOUSE VOTES TO AVERT RAIL STRIKE, SENDING LEGISLATION TO SENATE

The tentative agreement would impose a labor contract that would result in a 24% pay increase and safety provisions. It is meant to prevent a freight shutdown that the railroads say would cost the United States an estimated $2 billion per day. But the contract only granted workers one day of paid sick leave.

Following pushback from progressive lawmakers, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) added a separate vote that would grant rail workers seven days of leave. The House passed both the labor agreement and additional sick days on Wednesday, but the paid leave vote only passed narrowly.

The Senate on Thursday quickly picked up the legislation but added a vote on the failed cool-down period amendment.

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Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who negotiated the tentative agreement between the railroads and labor unions, met with Democratic senators on Thursday. Walsh said as the legislation was coming up for a vote that a 60-day cool-off period would not improve rail discussions.

Senate passage of the tentative agreement would put the country one step closer to avoiding a rail strike on Dec. 9, sending it to President Joe Biden’s desk.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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