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Ag and other industries urge Congress to prevent rail strike

Ag and other industries urge Congress to prevent rail strike

Workers are set to strike on Dec. 9

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Representatives from multiple industries are asking federal lawmakers to step in and prevent a rail strike.

More than 400 organizations, including the American Farm Bureau Federation and American Petroleum Institute, wrote to Congress warning of how a work stoppage could affect the American economy.

A strike could lead to “interruptions in the delivery of fertilizers, chlorine, and other products essential to clean water, our food supply, and electricity generation,” the letter said, Reuters reported on Nov. 28.

In total, a strike could cost the U.S. economy about $2 billion per day.

Workers and unions have been negotiating for weeks.

Workers in eight unions approved the tentative agreement reached in September, which included a 24 percent raise.

Four unions rejected it because the workers feel the deal doesn’t address demanding work schedules or other issues.

All 12 unions must approve a deal to prevent a strike.

Congress does have the authority to impose contract terms or force negotiations to continue.

And President Biden is asking Congress to use that authority.

“I am calling on Congress to pass legislation immediately to adopt the Tentative Agreement between railroad workers and operators – without any modifications or delay – to avert a potentially crippling national rail shutdown,” the president said on Monday.

Rail is a major contributor to how U.S. agricultural products travel.

In 2020, for example, corn accounted for 46 percent of total rail grain carloads, the Association of American Railroads says.

With supply chains already strained, a rail strike could cause additional harm.

“Michigan agriculture is a leading economic engine for our state, pumping more than $100 billion into our economy every year,” Chuck Lippstreu, president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association, said in a statement. “Rural businesses depend on rail to move grain, fertilizer and many other products. A rail strike would pile on to existing logistics challenges in our industry and snarl the agricultural supply chain.”

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