Rail Strike Averted With GOP Support

A railroad workers’ strike and the devastating supply chain shutdown that would have resulted were narrowly averted on Thursday morning. The Senate approved a labor deal put together by the Biden White House, clearing the way for the president to sign the legislation later in the morning.

The final contentious issue that had to be resolved in the Senate centered on a provision that mandates an extra seven days per year of paid sick leave for rail workers.

The Senate was deciding how to act on a bill that had easily passed in the House that mandated workers accept the deal put together by Biden in September. That agreement provided for only three additional sick days and was rejected by four of the labor unions that have been involved in the negotiations.

Six GOP senators joined with Democrats to propose an amendment that would have increased the number of sick days to seven. However, the amendment needed at least 60 votes to advance past the Senate filibuster rule and failed. The Senate then overwhelmingly passed the House-approved bill that included the three-day provision.

Sens. Mike Braun (R-IN), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Josh Hawley (R-MO), John Kennedy (R-LA), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined with Democrats in calling for the additional sick days amendment.

Hawley said that the failed amendment was a “litmus test for a party he wants to move in a more populist direction.” He added, “This is a great example, a great opportunity, for Republicans to say we are for workers over and against all of these other people. And sadly, we didn’t take it.”

Hawley said that many of the rail workers in Missouri affected by the mandated agreement are Republican voters and are “people who live very conservative lives, and they just want to have a chance to earn a good living.”

Cruz said he voted for the amendment because he believes “the rail workers are making reasonable requests that should be adequately addressed.”

Rubio said on Wednesday that he would not vote for any mandated agreement that was not fully supported by the rail workers’ representatives. He said, “It is wrong for the Biden Administration, which has failed to fight for workers, to ask Congress to impose a deal the workers themselves have rejected.”

The only Democrat to vote against the amendment was Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who said he is “sympathetic” to the needs of workers but does not “believe it is the role of Congress to renegotiate a collective bargaining agreement that has already been negotiated.”