WASHINGTON (AP) — Legislation to avert what could have been an economically ruinous freight rail strike won final approval in Congress on Thursday as lawmakers responded quickly to President Joe Biden’s call for federal intervention in a long-running labor dispute.
The Senate passed a bill to bind rail companies and workers to a proposed settlement that was reached between the rail companies and union leaders in September. That settlement had been rejected by four of the 12 unions involved, creating the possibility of a strike beginning Dec. 9.
The Senate vote was 80-15. It came one day after the House voted to impose the agreement. The measure now goes to Biden’s desk for his signature.
“Congress’ decisive action ensures that we will avoid the impending, devastating economic consequences for workers, families, and communities across the country,” Biden said in a statement after the vote.
“Communities will maintain access to clean drinking water. Farmers and ranchers will continue to be able to bring food to market and feed their livestock. And hundreds of thousands of Americans in a number of industries will keep their jobs,” Biden said. “I will sign the bill into law as soon as Congress sends it to my desk.”
The Senate voted shortly after Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg emphasized to Democratic senators in a meeting at the Capitol that rail companies would begin shutting down operations well before a potential strike would begin. The administration wanted the bill on Biden’s desk by the weekend.
FILE – A CSX freight train travels through Alexandria, Va., Sept. 15, 2022. The Biden administration is saying the U.S. economy would face a severe economic shock if senators don’t pass legislation this week to avert a rail worker strike. The administration is delivering that message personally to Democratic senators in a closed-door session Thursday, Dec. 1. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf, File)