Biden attempts to force unions into accepting union deal

John Ursomarso, Staff Reporter

As of Tuesday, November 29th, Biden has called on Congress to force rail unions to accept a labor deal in order to definitively stop a rail union strike. The strike was originally threatened on November 22nd when twelve of America’s largest rail unions presented an ultimatum, in which they threatened to go on strike if their demands for better working conditions were not met. Demands made by the rail workers include seven days of paid sick days, increased pay, reimbursements for lodging, and travel costs when away from home for prolonged periods. It seemed a strike could be averted when in early October eight of the twelve unions agreed to a labor deal that would grant the unions a portion of their requests. Despite revamped efforts at the negotiation table, the White House has been unable to convince the remaining four unions to sign the trade deal and the unions will go on strike within the coming days. Now, to prevent the imminent strike, Biden is calling on Congress to force the unions into accepting the deal. Under the Railway Labor Act, in the event of a strike, Congress has the right to force unions and their employers to accept a labor deal if they believe the resulting strike would be detrimental to interstate commerce. 

Some government leaders have voiced their disapproval over Biden calling for the Railway Labor Act, arguing that it goes against Biden’s campaign promise to support unions, Florida’s Senator Marco Rubio stated that “Just because Congress has the authority to impose a heavy-handed solution does not mean we should,” 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.”. Biden and his supporters have argued that a rail strike, of this magnitude, would be so devastating to the American people that moral compromise must be made. It’s predicted that within the first week of the strike one million workers would be out of jobs, inflation would increase exponentially, water purification and gasoline processing plants would become unable to function, and produce would not be able to be transported to grocery stores. When asked how he felt about calling for the Railway Labor Act Biden said, “It’s not an easy call, but I think we have to do it. The economy is at risk,”. Nancy Pelosi echoed this response saying that  “I don’t like going against the ability of unions to strike, but weighing the equities, we must avoid a strike,” said Mrs. Pelosi “Jobs will be lost, even union jobs will be lost, water will not be safe, product will not be going to market.” 

The four unions who didn’t agree to Bidens proposed labor deal are holding out for seven days of paid sick days, for reference both Apple and Bechtel offer 12 days of sick leave, the working standard. The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division, one of the country’s largest unions said regarding Biden’s actions, “It is not enough to ‘share workers’ concerns…A call to Congress to act immediately to pass legislation that adopts tentative agreements that exclude paid sick leave ignores the railroad workers’ concerns.”

It is not often that the limitations of unions and the extent of our government’s tolerance for them are displayed in such a patient and public way. It raises the question, do unions have any real power to change the fundamental structure of this country, or are they just shell bodies, given enough freedom to make their members feel empowered with choice, but reigned in whenever they present a legitimate threat to the structural stability of the American caste system.