© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An aerial view of gantry cranes, shipping containers, and freight railway trains ahead of a possible strike if there is no deal with the rail worker unions, at the Union Pacific Los Angeles (UPLA) Intermodal Facility rail yard in Commerce, Cal
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The leader of largest U.S. business lobbying group on Tuesday called on Congress to intervene in an ongoing railroad labor standoff that threatens to idle shipments of food and fuel while inflicting billions of dollars of damage to an already struggling national economy.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Suzanne Clark implored federal lawmakers to step in one day after members of the country’s biggest railroad union rejected a tentative agreement brokered by a board appointed by President Joe Biden.
“Congress must now impose the deal President Biden negotiated, and the railroads and union leadership agreed to,” Clark said.
Biden’s Presidential Emergency Board in August released the framework for the tentative deal forged between major carriers like Union Pacific (NYSE:) and a dozen unions representing 115,000 workers.
Four unions have since rebuffed that deal, angered that the railroads responded to their ask for 15 paid sick days with an offer of one paid personal day after their members kept vital goods flowing during the pandemic.
Those unions and their employers have until early December to settle their differences. If they do not, workers could strike and railroads could lock out employees – unless Congress intervenes.
“If Congress fails to do so, a rail strike would substantially exacerbate inflation and the economic challenges Americans are facing today,” she said.