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Business groups urge Congress to take ‘immediate’ action to avert rail strike

Thru the Cycle president gives his take on the impact of a possible rail strike and the state of the U.S. economy on ‘Maria Bartiromo’s Wall Street.’

Business groups from across the U.S. called on Congress Monday to take "immediate" actions to step in and avoid a looming nationwide rail strike that could wreak havoc on the economy, as labor negotiations between unions and the nation's freight railroads remain stalled ahead of next week's deadline for an agreement.

A coalition of 449 organizations led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce warned congressional leadership in an open letter that federal lawmakers should be ready to act before the Dec. 9 strike deadline, saying disruptions to the nation's rail service could begin as early as Dec. 5 and calling the situation a "matter of grave urgency."

rail strike

Freight rail cars loaded with lumber sit on tracks at the Port of Los Angeles on Nov. 22, 2022, in California. (Mario Tama/Getty Images / Getty Images)

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
UNP UNION PACIFIC CORP. 208.52 -4.81 -2.25%
CSX CSX CORP. 31.70 -0.32 -1.00%
NSC NORFOLK SOUTHERN CORP. 248.55 -3.77 -1.49%

If a work stoppage occurs, it would cost the economy an estimated $2 billion per day, decimate an already-fragile supply chain during the holiday shopping season, and cause shortages that would drive prices up further as inflation continues to rage. It would also halt Amtrak and other commuter rail services, disrupting up to 7 million travelers daily, according to the groups.

The coalition said Congress should not wait until the deadline hits to act, because disruptions could start to kick in days before – just as they did a few months ago when the Biden administration stepped in to negotiate a last-minute agreement to avoid a strike prior to the midterm elections.


"In September, the mere possibility of a rail service stoppage created significant disruptions to the timely delivery of critical goods and products," the letter reads. "The freight railroads must safely reduce operations and secure their customers’ goods days in advance of a potential strike, meaning businesses and communities saw interruptions in the delivery of fertilizers, chlorine and other products essential to clean water, our food supply and electricity generation."

rail strike

A rail employee works a Union Pacific Intermodal Terminal rail yard on Nov. 21, 2022, in Los Angeles, California. (Mario Tama/Getty Images / Getty Images)

The tentative agreement brokered by the Biden administration in September would provide rail workers a 24% wage increase during the five-year period from 2020 through 2024, with thousands of dollars in sign-on bonuses. But union rail workers opposed to the deal are unhappy that it does not do more to address quality-of-life issues, particularly a lack of sick time and working on skeleton crews.

All 12 unions involved in negotiations must ratify their new agreements to avert a potential work stoppage.


Although union representatives signed off on the deal, the rank-and-file members of four unions voted against it and want to hold out to see those quality-of-life issues included. Multiple members told FOX Business they do not want to see Congress get involved because they do not believe it would benefit them.

joe biden marty walsh

President Joe Biden and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh attend a Labor Day event of the United Steelworkers of America Local Union 2227 in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 5, 2022. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images / Getty Images)

It is unclear how involved the Biden administration has been in the negotiations this time around. President Biden told reporters last week that he has not personally spoken with either side in the ongoing talks, contradicting White House claims that he was "directly involved," but that his "team has been in touch with all the parties."


Congressional leadership has said they are watching the situation, but have not signaled immediate action. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told lawmakers in a note over the weekend about the upcoming schedule, "We are also aware of the ongoing freight rail negotiations and [will] continue to monitor their progress in the days ahead."

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