Rail strike looms over economy, midterm elections

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WADDY, KY – JANUARY 5: A westbound Norfolk Southern Corp. freight train makes it’s way along the tracks January 6, 2014 in Waddy, Kentucky. Intermodal rail traffic in the United States increased 10.6% in the last week of 2013 compared to the same week in 2012 according to a report from the Association of American Railroads. Volumes rose due in part to demand from retailers restocking store shelves and distribution centers following the holiday retail crush. (Photo by Luke Sharrett/Getty Images)

(NewsNation) — A potential nationwide railroad strike looms, threatening the U.S. economy ahead of the holiday season and November’s midterm elections.

Roughly 115,000 rail workers could walk off the job if they can’t agree to a new contract with the railroads by next Friday.

These workers on the railroad and their unions cannot get on the same page as the company owners — and it breaks down to salary and what some have described as “unsafe work conditions.”

So far, five of the 13 unions representing rail workers reached tentative agreements, which call for 24% pay raises, back pay and cash bonuses.

The majority of the workers belong to unions that haven’t agreed to a deal yet, but many appear to be willing to strike over what they describe as, “dangerous working conditions, hellish hours and meager pay.”

Experts say a walkout could devastate industries relying on freight and shipping containers would pile up at ports, severely crippling our supply chain again.

It’s an issue that would send prices soaring just before the holiday shopping season, and on the political side, the midterm elections. Rail service at major U.S. seaports suffered recently due to spreading supply-chain snarls and labor and equipment shortages.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration is working to prevent a strike.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh took part in a meeting Wednesday between the National Mediation Board, the country’s largest rail carriers, and eight unions hoping to prevent a strike.

Congress is also lurking in the background. Federal law gives Congress the power to block or delay a strike. Lawmakers could force a deal to put workers back to work.

If the rail workers walk off the job, it will be the first time since 1992. Back then, Congress and President George H.W. Bush stepped in and stopped it. Also, that strike cost the U.S. economy $50 million a day – and that was 30 years ago.

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