The U.S. Senate on Thursday voted 80-15 in favor of a bill that would prevent a rail strike by imposing a deal on freight-rail workers, after rejecting a separate House-passed measure that would require rail companies to provide those workers with seven days of paid sick leave per year. The vote for the bill imposing a deal keeps Washington on track to block a strike, as the House of Representatives passed it Wednesday. President Joe Biden is expected to sign the legislation into law given that he called on Monday for Congress to act.
Business groups have been warning that even a short-term strike would have a tremendous impact and cause economic pain. The deal that would be imposed on rail employees includes a 24% increase in wages from 2020 through 2024, but workers have remained concerned about a lack of paid sick time. In the vote on sick leave, there were 52 senators in favor, while 43 were opposed, and 60 votes for it were needed. A half dozen Republican senators were in favor, while Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia was the only Democrat in opposition. “While I am sympathetic to the concerns union members have raised, I do not believe it is the role of Congress to renegotiate a collective bargaining agreement that has already been negotiated,” Manchin said in a statement. Earlier Thursday, the Senate also voted against an amendment from Republican senators that aimed to deliver a cooling-off period so talks between rail companies and their workers could continue. Railroad operators’ stocks finished with gains Tuesday as traders reacted to Washington’s moves to prevent a strike, but Norfolk Southern Corp.
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