President Joe Biden urged railroad managers and union leaders to be creative and flexible to find a compromise to avoid a closure that could have disrupted the movement of goods across the U.S., White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
“The message from the President – it was very clear – we have to make a deal,” Jean-Pierre told reporters at a news conference on Thursday. “He once again urged them to recognize the damage that would be done to families, farmers, businesses and entire communities if a shutdown occurred. He urged them to be creative, to be flexible, to be accommodating to others, and he stressed how significant the economic impact could be.”
In negotiations that lasted nearly 20 hours, the Biden administration, including the president himself, has struggled. along with Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh to reach an agreement before the Friday deadline.
US President Joe Biden salutes negotiators who negotiated the railroad labor contract after US railroads and unions announced March 15.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters
“You must remember what we averted here,” said Jean-Pierre. “That would have been devastating to our economy, devastating to our supply chains.”
About 40% of nationwide long-distance trade is handled by rail. If unions had gone on strike, more than 7,000 trains would have been grounded, at an estimated cost of up to $2 billion a day. The White House had been in talks with railroad workers’ unions and companies for several months, but negotiations revolved around the issue of unpaid sick leave.
Preliminary agreements, reached early Thursday morning, involved about 60,000 workers jointly managed by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers – Transportation Division and the Brotherhood are represented by the signalman.