How many times has Congress intervened in rail negotiations?


File – A CSX train engine sits idle on tracks in Philadelphia, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022. The railroad will release its third quarter earnings report on Thursday afternoon. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

(NewsNation) — With a national rail strike looming, elected officials are set to intervene and force a deal as Congress has done a number of times since the Railway Labor Act was enacted in 1926.

Democratic lawmakers and President Joe Biden have made it clear that they intend to step in and prevent a strike which would bring commuter and freight lines to a halt just weeks before the Christmas holiday.

On Monday, President Joe Biden called on Congress to pass legislation that would force rail unions to adopt the tentative agreement reached in September.

Such an action would not be without precedent.

Since the passage of the Railway Labor Act almost 100 years ago, Congress has intervened 18 times in railway labor negotiations in order to prevent strikes, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Most recently, in June 1992, Congress moved quickly to end a rail strike by adopting emergency legislation just two days after it began.

At that time, then-Delaware Sen. Joe Biden was one of only six U.S. Senators to vote against the bill that ended the strike.

When Congress has intervened in major rail disputes, it’s done so quickly.

April 1991: Congress signed a joint resolution ending a national railroad strike less than 24 hours after it began. President George H.W. Bush signed the legislation that imposed recommendations made by a Presidential emergency board if the issues were not resolved within 65 days.

September 1982: President Ronald Reagan ended a four-day rail strike after signing legislation passed by the U.S. House. The strike had halted freight traffic across the country and left about 500,000 workers idle, according to the Washington Post.

The joint resolution ordered the unions to accept the terms recommended by the presidential emergency panel.

May 1971: About 570,000 railroad workers went on strike for three days before Congress intervened and imposed pay increases.

July 1967: The two-day strike, which resulted from a dispute over wages, was ended after President Lyndon Johnson signed legislation allowing the Attorney General to obtain an injunction ordering 459,000 rail workers to return to their jobs.

Now in 2022, with a potential strike just days away, Congress looks set to heed Biden’s call and impose the terms outlined in September. Doing so would prevent a walkout that is expected to cost $2 billion per day.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused the railroads of “selling out to Wall Street to boost their bottom lines” but acknowledged that Congress “must act to prevent a catastrophic nationwide rail strike, which would grind our economy to a halt,” in a statement Monday.

Pelosi said the House will consider legislation adopting the tentative agreement this week.

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