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Legal Update Article

Congress Votes to Impose Bargaining Agreement to Avoid Nationwide Railroad Strike

Both the House and Senate have passed legislation under the Railway Labor Act to avoid a railroad strike by imposing the bargaining agreement brokered by President Joe Biden in September 2022.

The House already voted in favor of the legislation. (For details of the bill, see our article, President Biden Calls on Congress to Avoid Mass Railroad Strike.) With the Senate also voting to pass the main bill, by an 80-15 vote, the threat of a strike has been averted. The legislation moves to the president for his signature. Biden has indicated he will sign the bill.

While the House voted in favor of the separate, additional piece of legislation that would have added seven paid sick leave days annually for the rail workers, the Senate did not have enough votes to pass that bill. President Biden vowed in a separate statement to seek paid leave in the future not just for rail workers, but for all workers.

What was passed by Congress in its joint resolution was short and succinct. The three-page joint resolution stated that all tentative agreements entered into by the rail carriers and the unions were considered in effect as if they had been ratified. The exact terms of each collective bargaining agreement vary by union and were not part of the bill that was passed. This is a result of the special powers given to Congress under the Railway Labor Act.

All contracts contained generous wage increases: roughly 24 percent over four to five years with one extra day of leave. However, the other detailed terms will vary across the dozen national craft unions.

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