Biden says railroad companies, unions reach tentative deal, averting strike

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden praised a deal reached by freight railroad companies and unionized railway workers as a “big win for American for both” parties while speaking Thursday outside the White House.

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Update 11:35 a.m. EDT Sept. 15: The agreement, which if approved will give railway workers better pay and improved health care, was reached after negotiators for companies and workers met for more than 20 straight hours, Biden said.

“Together we reached an agreement ... that will keep our critical rail system working and avoid disruption to our economy,” the president said.

Original report: President Joe Biden said early Thursday that freight railroad companies and unionized railway workers have reached a tentative deal to avoid a strike, The Associated Press is reporting.

“The tentative agreement reached tonight is an important win for our economy and the American people,” Biden said in a statement posted on the official White House website. “It is a win for tens of thousands of rail workers who worked tirelessly through the pandemic to ensure that America’s families and communities got deliveries of what have kept us going during these difficult years. These rail workers will get better pay, improved working conditions, and peace of mind around their health care costs: all hard-earned. The agreement is also a victory for railway companies who will be able to retain and recruit more workers for an industry that will continue to be part of the backbone of the American economy for decades to come.”

The statement continued: “I thank the unions and rail companies for negotiating in good faith and reaching a tentative agreement that will keep our critical rail system working and avoid disruption of our economy.”

As of 5:40 a.m. EDT Thursday, the Republican Party had not publicly responded to the news.

U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh tweeted shortly after 5 a.m. EDT that the deal, which “balances the needs of workers, businesses and our nation’s economy,” came after “more than 20 consecutive hours of negotiations.”

“The Biden Administration applauds all parties for reaching this hard-fought, mutually beneficial deal,” Walsh wrote. “Our rail system is integral to our supply chain, and a disruption would have had catastrophic impacts on industries, travelers and families across the country.”

The exact terms of the tentative agreement weren’t immediately clear, and unions still need to vote on the deal, according to the AP.

On Wednesday, Senate Republicans attempted to pass a bill aimed at placing contract terms on railroad companies and unions ahead of a possible nationwide shutdown, the AP reported. Democrats blocked the measure, according to the news agency.

“If a strike occurs and paralyzes food, fertilizer and energy shipments nationwide, it will be because Democrats blocked this bill,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Wednesday, according to the AP.

Biden’s announcement also came one day after Amtrak said it would suspend all of its long-distance passenger trips beginning Thursday, The New York Times reported. Although Amtrak workers weren’t involved in the talks, the company uses freight lines for long-distance trips, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.