WASHINGTON — A coalition of 400-plus industry trade groups — including the Auto Care Association (ACA) and Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) — is calling on Congress to intervene in an ongoing labor dispute that threatens to shut down nationwide rail shipments as soon as Dec. 5.
Four unions representing various aspects of rail transport have rejected a tentative contract reached in September and approved by eight other unions, according to a letter drafted by the coalition.
The coalition estimates that $2 billion worth of daily shipments covering everything from auto parts to food, energy and other retail products would be impacted if a strike occurs.
The unions and railroads have until Dec. 9 to resolve differences before workers could strike or be locked out. However, railroads must safely reduce operations and secure their customers' goods days in advance of a potential strike, which would halt shipments of chemicals, fertilizers, chlorine and some other essential products at least four days sooner.
The ACA and SEMA joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, National Retail Federation and many other organizations in urging Congress to protect interstate commerce and America's economic health.
The group's letter to congressional leadership notes that: "No one wins when the railroads stop running... 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."
The groups called on lawmakers to take immediate steps to prevent a national rail strike and the certain economic destruction that would follow.
President Biden also has called on Congress to pass legislation immediately to adopt the tentative labor agreement. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the House of Representatives would vote this week on a bill to adopt the tentative accord and send it to the Senate for ratification.
Congress has intervened 18 times since 1926 in labor negotiations that threatened interstate commerce, according to SEMA.
The proposed rail contract includes a 24% pay increase over five years, along with a $5,000 bonus, an added paid day off and no disruptions to current health care plans. The labor dispute centers on requests for more lenient attendance policies and upgraded sick leave policies, which the rail companies argue would require them to hire more staffers.