The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has issued an open letter to President Biden to avert a nationwide railroad strike as workers await contract renewal.
Railroad workers at all seven Class I major railroads have been without a new contract for nearly three years.
In a letter sent to the White House on 6 July, U.S. Chamber President Suzanne Clark warned that the National Mediation Board (NMB)’s decision to release the railroads and unions from mediation and begin a 30-day cooling off period “presents a new challenge to the US business community, which is already navigating a difficult environment.”
At any point during the 30-day cooling-off period, President Biden may appoint a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) to impose a settlement on the railroad workers.
Under the law, Biden can appoint the PEB as early as 18 July, when the cooling-off period expires. However, if either party rejects the PEB’s recommendation, or if the cooling-off period expires before an agreement is reached, either party will be “free to exercise ‘self-help’ options – including a strike”
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President Clark highlighted the risks a walkout would pose as the US economy is still facing the crippling effects of record inflation, labour shortages, and ongoing supply chain disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We remain optimistic that both sides will be able to resolve their differences and voluntarily reach a new agreement,” the letter concludes.
“However, the Administration’s next steps will be critical in this regard.”
In the meantime, crucial labour talks between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) are moving forward without any hardship, says the U.S. Labor Secretary.