Biden says in touch with rail unions to avoid strike

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Biden says in touch with rail unions to avoid strike

Reuters President Joe Biden stated on Thursday that his administration was involved in negotiations to prevent a U.S. railroad strike, which could shut down supply chains across the country, but he said he has not directly engaged on the matter yet.

During a Thanksgiving holiday visit, Biden refused to give any details about how the talks were going, because it was the middle of negotiations, as he spoke to reporters outside a fire station in Nantucket Island, Massachusetts. My team is in touch with all the parties and I have not directly engaged yet because they're still talking, Biden said.

More than 300 groups, including the National Retail Federation and the National Association of Manufacturers, urged Biden to get involved to help avoid a strike that could cause billions of dollars of damage to an already struggling national economy.

Several of these groups called for Biden and Congress to intervene quickly to prevent a strike or employer lockout ahead of the holiday season.

A railroad traffic stoppage could freeze almost 30% of US freight shipments by weight, cause inflation and cost the American economy as much as $2 billion per day, and cause a cascade of transport woes that affect the U.S. energy, agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare and retail sectors.

On Monday, workers at the largest U.S. rail union voted against a tentative contract deal reached in September, raising the possibility of a year-end strike.

Labor unions are criticized for the railroads' sick leave and attendance policies and lack of paid sick days for short-term illness. There is no paid sick days under the tentative deal. The railroads settled on one personal day and the unions asked for 15 paid sick days.

The Biden administration was able to avert a service cutoff by hosting last minute contract talks in September that led to the tentative contract deal.