Rail strike likely averted amid “tentative” deal
by Gabe Fleisher
Good morning! It’s Thursday, September 15, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 54 days away. Election Day 2024 is 782 days away.
Breaking: Rail strike likely averted amid “tentative” deal
President Biden announced this morning that a “tentative agreement” had been reached between unions and rail companies, likely averting a national rail strike that would have been disastrous for the American economy.
The deal is an “important win for our economy and the American people,” as well as for “tens of thousands of rail workers who worked tirelessly through the pandemic,” Biden said in a statement.
Although the details of the agreement have not been made public, the Washington Post has reported that it includes new leave policies for the rail workers, which the Post called “a significant concession by train carriers to workers who had demanded greater flexibility to be able to miss work for medical emergencies without being fired or punished.”
The deal also calls for the train workers to receive a 24% wage increase by 2024, including an immediate $11,000 increase.
The possibility of a rail strike had gripped Washington and ensnared both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Biden — a known lover of trains and Amtrak — became personally involved in the negotiations, which were led by Labor Secretary Marty Walsh. According to the New York Times, talks brokered by Walsh lasted a full 20 hours on Wednesday, including a presidential phone-in at around 9 pm.
On Capitol Hill, Senate Republicans attempted to hold a vote Wednesday to force both sides of the dispute to accept the recommendations of a non-partisan panel set up by Biden.
But Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) blocked the effort, on the grounds that the panel’s proposal did not include the sick leave for workers.
“If rail shuts down, our entire agricultural system shuts down,” Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) warned in a speech on the Senate floor.
Indeed, according to the Association for American Railroads, a strike would have thrown the country’s agricultural supply chain into chaos and cost the U.S. economy more than $2 billion per day.
In anticipation of a strike, Amtrak had already made plans to cancel its long-distance trains, while key shipments of chemicals used for agriculture were already being shelved.
Although the agreement has not been formally approved, workers have agreed not to strike while the ratification process is underway. The deal will be ratified through a vote by union members, which could take several weeks.
Still, the prospect of a strike — which would have began on Friday — appears to have been averted.
What else you should know
Trump investigations: Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has complied with a subpoena from the Justice Department’s January 6 investigation, per CNN, making him the highest-ranking Trump official known to be cooperating with the probe.
- The development is yet another sign of the expansiveness of the probe, which is investigating felony violations of false statements, conspiracy and obstruction, according to one former Trump aide under examination. Still, the probe remains in its early stages.
Supreme Court: The Supreme Court reversed course Wednesday and ruled that Yeshiva University in New York “must for now comply with a state court’s order that it should recognize a campus gay rights organization,” the Washington Post reports.
- The vote was 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joining the three liberal justices in rejecting Yeshiva’s religious freedom arguments.
Congress: Supporters of a House-passed bill codifying same-sex marriage are struggling to find 10 Republican votes to sign off on the measure in the Senate, per Politico. A vote — once expected early next week — could be pushed until after the midterms.
Today at a glance
All times Eastern. Click on an event’s time to watch it.
President Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing (8:30 am), deliver a keynote speech at the “United We Stand” summit (3:30 pm), and then attend the 45th annual Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute gala downtown (8:25 pm).
- Context: Per the White House, Biden’s “United We Stand” summit will “put forward a shared vision for a more united America” and focus on new actions being taken by the federal government to “address hate-fueled violence and advance national unity.”
Vice President Harris will deliver remarks at the “United We Stand” summit (10:10 am) and host a meeting with the presidents of Suriname, Barbados, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Dominican Republic (1:45 pm).
Second Gentleman Emhoff will travel to Pennsylvania with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. They’ll hold a roundtable on school mental health services in Allentown (1:30 pm) and hold an event highlighting the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program in Philadelphia (5 pm).
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will hold her daily press briefing (1:15 pm).
- U.S. public health officials will also hold a press briefing on the monkeypox response (10:30 am). Briefers will include Dr. Anthony Fauci, CDC director Rochelle Walensky, and White House monkeypox coordinator Bob Fenton.
The Senate will convene (10 am) and hold two confirmation votes: on Sarah Merriam’s nomination to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Second Circuit (11:30 am) and on David Pekoske’s nomination for a second five-year term as TSA administrator (1:45 pm).
The House will convene (12 pm) and vote on three pieces of legislation, all in some way designed to respond to the Trump administration:
- The Preventing a Patronage System Act, which would block the White House from creating new federal job classifications without congressional approval — a response to former President Trump’s plans to create “Schedule F,” a new employment category for federal workers that would make them easier to fire, if he is re-elected.
- The Whistleblower Protection Improvement Act, which would expand the protections offered to federal whistleblowers and clarify that even a president cannot interfere or retaliate against a whistleblower — a response to Trump’s treatment of whistleblowers during his presidency.
- The Ensuring a Fair and Accurate Census Act, which would require that any new subjects or questions added to the census must be approved by Congress — a response to Trump’s addition of a census question on citizenship.
Congressional committees will hold hearings on topics including Big Oil’s role in the climate crisis (9 am), the search for aging therapies (10 am), U.S. policy in Venezuela (10 am), the intersection of health care and climate change (11 am), and Russia’s use of private military companies (2 pm)
The Supreme Court is out until September 28.
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