WASHINGTON — The American Consumer Institute issued the following statement:
Just four freight rail employee unions are holding up a generous new collective bargaining agreement. Two thirds of freight rail employee unions support the agreement and over 70 percent of Americans believe it’s fair, but those last four unions’ refusal means America is at risk for a rail strike by December 9. The economic implications of such a strike are unconscionable.
Most Americans and freight rail employee union leaders are right to view this agreement as reasonable and generous — the new contracts include an immediate 14.1% wage increase, a 24 percent wage increase by 2024 and maintenance of premium health care plans.
A rail strike this month, however, would be devastating for American consumers to endure. Halting rail shipments could cost our economy over $2 billion in output per day. Other modes of transportation don’t have the capacity to transport the same amount as the rail system, so a strike would lead to significant supply chain issues in the food, chemical, electricity and construction industries, among others.
Congress has the authority to implement the agreement as it stands without unanimous assent to block a potential rail strike. If the remaining four unions don’t sign on soon, Congress should exercise this authority. This doesn’t have to be a partisan move. With such a generous agreement already on offer to freight rail employees, American consumers’ economic stability and well-being should be lawmakers’ top priority.