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US Senate passes bill to avert rail shutdown with Biden’s approval looming

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Dec 02, 2022 - 05:50 AM

WASHINGTON (AA) – The US Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill Thursday that seeks to avoid a nationwide rail shutdown by forcing labor unions to accept a tentative agreement brokered by the Biden administration.

The Senate’s 80-15-1 vote sends the measure to President Joe Biden, who is expected to quickly sign it into law after imploring lawmakers to approve it. Republican Sen. Rand Paul voted “present.”

The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved the bill with a strong bipartisan majority.

It forces rail unions and companies to accept a tentative agreement brokered by the Biden administration over the summer. Four of the 12 labor unions involved in the negotiations have rejected the agreement over its lack of paid sick leave for workers. Unions have threatened to strike if an agreement is not reached by a Dec. 9 deadline.

Rail companies had warned that they would begin drawing down operations before the deadline in preparation for any potential strike.

Shortly after it passed the bill on Wednesday, the outgoing Democratically-controlled House voted to approve a separate add-on measure that guaranteed the seven days of paid sick leave sought by unions. But it failed to clear the Senate, falling eight votes short of the 60 it needed.

Biden urged Congress to quickly approve the bill, saying that if the strike were allowed to take hold, it would result in up to 765,000 Americans losing their jobs in the first two weeks alone.

Defending his support for the agreement he helped broker, Biden told reporters at the White House on Thursday that he “negotiated a contract no one else could negotiate.”

“There’s a lot of good things that happened” in the agreement, the president said during a joint press conference with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, pointing to increases in pay and other benefits.

“What was negotiated was so much better than anything they ever had,” he added.

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