The threat of a railroad strike has loomed over the U.S. for months now. Railway workers, fed up with a lack of sick leave, have consistently pushed back on corporate attempts to keep that status quo. Even a proposal set forth by the Biden administration, generously offering railroad workers a whole one (1) day of sick time, wasn’t enough to bridge the gap.
Now, those workers are firmly poised to strike. But with just days left until the December 9 strike deadline, hundreds of businesses asked the administration to stop any collective labor action. President Biden responded to those concerns late last night, by asking Congress to override the workers’ votes and force the single-sick-day contract on them.
Biden’s response said a rail shutdown would “devastate” the U.S. economy.
The United States, even in this day and age, runs on railroads. Without them, goods simply can’t make their way around the country with the speed and volume to which we’ve all grown accustomed. Any “disruption,” as the President put it, to that system risks throwing the country into turmoil. Guess those railroad workers are pretty important, huh?
A railroad workers’ strike would demonstrate, to railway owners and to the country at large, how deeply important these people are to the basic function of our society. It’s happened before — the Pullman strike of 1894 gave us Labor Day, after all. Now, just as back then, the workers’ asks are entirely reasonable. And now, just as back then, Congress wants to intervene to ensure the workers don’t get what they deserve, in favor of keeping the economy afloat.
Congress, and the President, realize the importance of railroad workers to the U.S. economy. That’s why they don’t want this strike to happen. Our “proud pro-labor President” loves unions, and supports strikers, but looks at “this critical moment for our economy, in the holiday season” for this heel turn. He’s right — the holiday season is the busiest time of the year for shopping. I understand that we, as Americans, will do anything to get our grubby mitts on our little capitalist treats, but should that come at the cost of railway workers’ health?
Sure, President Biden says that “no one should have to choose between their job and their health,” but he’s also actively stripping railway workers of any means to stop making that choice every day. Rather than have a holiday season light on presents, the President and Congress may instead set an unfortunate, perhaps fatal precedent — that some industries are simply too important to be allowed to strike.