WASHINGTON – The disruption of up to 6,300 carloads of food and farm products carried by rail daily may result if Congress fails to take action promptly to stop an impending rail strike, according to a letter sent Nov. 28 to congressional leaders by more than 400 US business organizations.
Sent to Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy, the Speaker of the House and the Republican Leader, respectively, and Senators Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader and Republican Leader, respectively, the letter calls the impending rail strike a matter of “grave urgency” and urges Congress to intervene before the end of a “status quo” period on Dec. 9.
Pressing for prompt action, the groups said many businesses would see the effects of a national rail strike well before Dec. 9. The groups noted that four unions that voted to reject an agreement brokered by the Biden administration between the rail workers and railroads have agree to align the end of their “status quo.” Eight unions voted to approve the agreement.
“Many businesses and communities rely on regular, uninterrupted rail service,” the groups said. “The uncertainty of rail service during this year’s protracted contract negotiations has created enormous anxiety. In September, the mere possibility of a rail service stoppage created significant disruptions to the timely delivery of critical goods and products. The freight railroads must safely reduce operations and secure their customers’ goods days in advance of a potential strike, meaning businesses and communities saw interruptions in the delivery of fertilizers, chlorine, and other products essential to clean water, our food supply, and electricity generation.”
Describing the potential economic damage that could result from a strike the groups said would cost the US economy $2 billion a day, the letter noted that a strike would disrupt up to 7 million travelers on Amtrak each day, imperil sales “in the middle of the critical holiday shopping season” and interfere with the “transporting (of) 6,300 carloads of food and farm products that are carried by rail daily.”
Congressional intervention is provided for by federal law and is consistent with past practice, the groups said.
“Congress has intervened 18 times since 1926 in labor negotiations that threaten interstate commerce, and there is no reason why Congress should deviate from this record today,” the letter said. “While a voluntary agreement with the four holdout unions is the best outcome, the risks to America’s economy and communities simply make a national rail strike unacceptable. Therefore, absent a voluntary agreement, we call on you to take immediate steps to prevent a national rail strike and the certain economic destruction that would follow.”Food industry groups that signed the letter include the American Bakers Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Frozen Foods Institute, Consumer Brands Association, Corn Refiners Association, FMI – The Food Industry Association, International Dairy Foods Association, National Association of Flour Distributors, National Grain and Feed Association, North American Meat Institute, North American Millers’ Association, and US Durum Growers Association.