WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – Negotiators and federal leaders are scrambling to avoid a railroad worker strike that could have devastating economic impacts in the United States.
Railroad companies and union leaders spent much of Wednesday meeting with Labor Secretary Marty Walsh to try to avoid a strike. It’s something lawmakers have been keeping a close eye on.
“We’re urging both sides to come together and come to an agreement, period,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said.
President Joe Biden established a presidential emergency board under the Railway Labor Act to make recommendations to the two sides. It imposed a 30-day cooling off period, which expires Friday.
Some of the unions have agreed to a compromise but two unions for engineers and conductors say they are holding out for better schedules and more flexible working conditions.
Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., is one of the lawmakers worried about the possibility of a strike.
“A complete shutdown of the rail system would result in devastating consequences across an already weak supply chain,” Moran said.
Patrick Anderson, the CEO of Anderson Economic Group, says a strike won’t initially impact the average person.
“But it would affect every American by a week,” Anderson explained. “You get a geometric growth in the damage that comes to the economy.”
Food, fuel and car parts are all carried by rail. George Washington University economics professor Stephen Smith says the longer a strike goes, the worse it could get.
“We run out of the chances to adapt in some way. We run out of inventory. We run out of creative workarounds,” Smith said.
Congress could step in to force the two sides to accept a deal.
“I would rather see negotiations prevail so that there’s no need for any actions from Congress,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said.
“There are strong forces, if you want, arrayed in favor of at least postponing this and getting it resolved,” Professor Smith said.
But time is running out to reach a deal before there are serious consequences.