Tip Sheets

Legislation to block rail strike misses ‘biggest sticking point’

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Jeff Tyson

President Biden has asked Congress to step in with legislation to avert a railroad strike next month. Lawmakers are poised to take up legislation this week that would impose a deal that unions agreed to in September, but does not address sick and personal time changes that unions are pushing for.

Arthur Wheaton

Director of Labor Studies, ILR School

Arthur Wheaton is a transportation industry and supply chain expert and director of labor studies at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Wheaton says congressional action to enforce the September agreement is “unlikely to resolve the issue.”

Wheaton says:

“The biggest concern I have is that the tentative agreement being pushed by the Biden administration fails to address the primary concerns of the union members.

“The sick time and personal time issue is by far the biggest sticking point in getting ratification by the members. If congress fails to add personal days or sick days to the deal it is unlikely to resolve the issues.

“The financial aspects were reasonably addressed but the failure to allow more flexibility in paid time off has been a huge problem for the bargaining unit members. A strike is very likely if members are not given similar paid time off required by federal contractors and most public and private sector collective bargaining agreements.”

Angela Cornell

Clinical Professor of Law, Director of the Labor Law Clinic

Angela Cornell, professor of law, is an expert on employment law and director of the Labor Law Clinic at Cornell’s Law School.


Cornell says:

"A significant percentage of workers in rail industry have rejected the contract brokered by the administration because of the failure to provide paid sick leave. Now the Biden administration is attempting to avert a rail strike through congressional action. 

"The unconscionable contract that fails to provide paid sick leave for rail workers should be rejected, and workers should be able to exercise their fundamental right to strike to seek this basic workplace protection enjoyed by most other American workers. These workers deserve at least a handful of paid sick leave, and should be permitted to exercise economic power through their right to strike."

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