House Passes Bill to Avert a Rail Strike, Moving to Impose a Labor Agreement on Union Members
The Senate passed a bill Wednesday, with a bipartisan majority that would prevent a scheduled work stoppage in the rail sector. The Senate also passed a second bill providing financial relief.
But the House is far from being a full-fledged bargainer and is expected to block the Senate’s rail bill by rejecting the Senate version and passing its own on the House floor.
The Senate bill would impose a five-year moratorium on rail service cuts and, if that doesn’t slow down the cuts, would impose a new four percent wage cut on affected workers.
The Senate’s version would have imposed a wage freeze of five percent for five years.
But House Republicans refused to accept that compromise, sending the House bill back for more revisions.
The House bill also would require workers to continue to pay their union dues, and would authorize rail workers to strike if their members are not paid.
The Senate bill is expected to run into an entrenched Republican filibuster, given that the House version would have imposed a more modest wage freeze for five years.
The Senate bill would permit workers to strike if their union membership drops to 50 percent — but unions would have to seek a labor agreement through the National Mediation Board.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said rail workers “stand to lose everything” if there is more labor disruption.
“People in Oregon and Washington and elsewhere in this country are going to lose everything if we don’t act and if we don’t show them we are determined to avoid a railroad strike,” he said.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said railroads are not a priority in a tight budget environment. He said he has “no doubt” the House will pass their bill.
The issue has become more urgent following the recent announcement last week that train service on most of the nation’s railroads will be cut over the next decade for the first time in decades.
Boehner said the House will pass legislation that would provide more flexibility for the Federal Railroad Administration, which will have to provide a way for workers to keep their benefits if there is a strike.
The Senate bill includes three key labor reforms: