Potential Railroad Strike Threatens Biden’s Union Credibility

President Joe Biden is once again facing down an enemy that he claimed victory over, but this time it’s a destructive national railroad strike. The president held a ceremony on Sept. 15 announcing a major deal to avert the freight lines from shutting down.

That, however, may prove premature. One of the unions that needed to sign off on the agreement flatly rejected it, throwing open the possibility of a crippling strike as the struggling nation heads into the holiday shopping season.

The country’s third-largest freight rail workers union, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division of the Teamsters (BMWED), voted 56% to 43% on Monday to reject the Biden-negotiated five-year contract.

The terms included a 24% pay raise within two years to an average wage of $110,000 a year.

A major sticking point for the rank and file, however, was the single paid sick day per year. The union wanted 15.

BMWED President Tony D. Caldwell explained that his members are “discouraged and upset” over what they perceive as the low regard companies have for their value. He added that quality of life issues revolving around paid time off, “especially for sickness,” are key.

The vote represents a major setback for the Biden administration and returns the unattractive specter of a nationwide strike heading into the holiday season. Several key Cabinet members were directly involved in negotiations, and the agreement was touted as a breakthrough.

There will be no actual strike until at least Nov. 19 due to the required “cooling-off” period.

Experts believe that a deal will ultimately be reached before the November deadline but warn that failure to avert a strike would be crippling both economically and politically for the administration.

The president has long touted himself as the most pro-union chief executive in the nation’s history, as shown by his kicking off his 2020 presidential campaign at a union hall in Pittsburgh. Labor organizations contributed tens of millions to his election effort.

Thus, having the freight railroad workers walk off the job before the holidays would be a huge blow. Even with the potential strike delayed until after the midterms, the economic impact would have dire consequences for the White House’s credibility.