The Senate has voted to pass a resolution imposing a contract on freight rail workers, though the chamber narrowly rejected a concurrent measure that would have given workers seven guaranteed paid sick days.
On Monday, President Joe Biden called on Congress to impose the contract — which was rejected by many of the freight rail workers — in order to avoid a national strike, which would have begun on December 9 and would have had significant effects on the economy.
The Biden administration had brokered a tentative deal between the railroads and their unions in August in an effort to avoid a strike, but members of four of the 12 unions rejected the deal. Paid sick leave was reportedly one of the central issues keeping the deal from moving forward.
If a strike were to have taken place, it would have had a serious impact on the nation’s supply chains — especially as we move into the Christmas holiday season.
In September, Joe Biden boasted how he brokered a deal to avert a rail strike.
Today, the biggest rail union rejected the deal.
Prices will surge even higher and the supply chain crisis will worsen right before Christmas!
— Lance Gooden (@Lancegooden) November 22, 2022
H.J. Resolution 100 passed the Senate by a margin of 80-15 on Thursday, far exceeding the 60-vote threshold necessary.
On the other hand, the concurrent resolution which would have given union members seven days of guaranteed paid sick leave — which narrowly advanced from the House of Representatives on Wednesday — failed to pass in the Senate, receiving only 52 votes, just shy of the 60 votes necessary.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), one of only six Republicans who voted in favor of the concurrent resolution, released a statement condemning those who voted against it.
While pointing out that this was a problem “best left to the private sector,” Rubio noted that Congress’s “involvement in this debate was inevitable once the Biden Administration, freight rail companies, and labor leaders negotiated a deal rail workers themselves did not support.”
“Congress should have sent everyone back to the negotiating table, but instead it told rail workers to suck it up and be grateful,” the statement continued. “If we had to get involved, we should have worked to meet the demands of the workers instead of appeasing labor leaders and companies.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) — who voted ‘present’ for the measure — argued that Congress should not have been involved at all, and that lawmakers who didn’t even have time to look at all of the details shouldn’t be able to “usurp” the will of the workers.
During an appearance on Fox Business Network’s “Kudlow,” Paul asserted that the very act of getting involved in this dispute will result in both sides expecting Congress to get involved in the future.
“The reason I voted present was sort of an old-fashioned notion that I don’t think Congress should be involved with contracts, saying, oh labor’s right and labor should get this or I also don’t think Congress should say, oh, management’s right and management should get this,” he said. “Negotiations in a marketplace take place voluntarily. Congress shouldn’t be dictating our will. We didn’t have a political election to see what your wages are…. And it was my way [of] voting against the Railway Act of 1926 as well.”
“And the more Congress gets involved, the more the other sides are going to expect this to happen,” Paul added. “Now, we have some sort of mediation board, which would be better than Congress… I’m not here to say, labor, you don’t deserve this. The four unions that rejected this, I think, are half of the railway workers. Should I usurp their will and tell them no, this is what I’ve decided? Nobody in Congress has time to sit down and look at every bit of the details of this.”