President Biden on Thursday hailed the tentative agreement to avoid a nationwide railroad strike as proof that unions and management can work together, taking credit for his administration’s role in making that happen.
“This agreement is validation of what I’ve always believed: Unions and management can work together, can work together, for the benefit of everyone,” he said in remarks in the Rose Garden.
Biden hosted the negotiators who brokered the railway labor agreement before his remarks.
“The negotiators here today, I don’t think they’ve been to bed yet,” Biden said.
The president called into the talks, which were being led by Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, around 9 p.m. Wednesday. Biden said on the call that a shutdown of railways was unacceptable, according to a White House official.
Walsh, who joined Biden in the Rose Garden on Thursday, called White House at 2 a.m. to say there appeared to be a deal following 20 hours of negotiations in the final stretch, the official said. Biden wasn’t on that call but put out a statement announcing the tentative deal around 5 a.m.
Biden, in his remarks, called the deal a win for America, as well as a win for rail workers and the dignity of work.
“This agreement allows us to continue to rebuild a better America, with an economy that truly works for working people and their families. Today is a win, and I mean this sincerely, a win for America,” he said, thanking both business and labor for getting it done.
He also stressed the significance of the shutdown being averted. A national railroad strike, which would have been the first in 30 years, could have crippled the U.S. supply chain.
“This agreement can avert significant damage that any shutdown would have brought. Our nations’ rail system is the backbone of our supply chain, everything you rely on,” he said, pointing to clean water, food, liquified national gas as goods rails move.
In response to a shouted question about grocery prices being up more than 13 percent this year, Biden replied, “rail’s moving and it’s not going to go up.”
The tentative deal would give members of the union a 14 percent raise and workers’ whose pay had been frozen would get a higher wage increase and a boost in medical care.
The two sides had until 12:01 a.m. Friday to broker a deal and avoid a work stoppage.
Earlier this week, 5,000 railway workers at the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) voted to reject a tentative contract agreement, authorizing a strike.