Rail worker criticizes Biden for ‘forcing contract’

The Whole Story

FILE – Freight train cars sit in a Norfolk Southern rail yard on Sept. 14, 2022, in Atlanta. Business groups are increasing the pressure on lawmakers to intervene and block a railroad strike before next month’s deadline in the stalled contract talks. A coalition of more than 400 business groups sent a letter to Congressional leaders Monday, Nov. 28, 2022 urging them to step in because of fears about the devastating potential impact of a strike that could force many businesses to shut down. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik, File)

(NewsNation) — A railroad union worker accused President Joe Biden of turning his back on workers after the president signed legislation to avert a freight rail strike.

“Joe Biden forced a contract on our unionized workers who voted against it,” Reece Murtagh, a roadway mechanic, told CNN.

The bill, which Biden signed Friday, requires a dozen rail labor unions to adopt a tentative contract deal reached in September despite the fact four of those unions opposed the terms.

The holdouts were fighting for paid sick leave, which was not included in the contract brokered by Biden’s panel of independent arbitrators.

“We’re out here every day working, moving freight, making things happen and when the leaders we vote in — who are supposed to support us — turn their back on us, the system is broken,” Murtagh said.

Biden, a longtime union ally, said the fight for sick leave isn’t over but that the rail order was necessary to prevent a strike that could have sunk the U.S. economy.

WHO’S TALKING ABOUT THIS?

The right. Of the outlets reporting this story, 67% lean to the right, 22% were considered left-leaning and 11% were in the center of the spectrum, according to NewsNation’s partner Ground News, which monitors media bias.

  • Fox Business: “Rail workers speak out after Biden forces unions to accept deal: ‘He turned his back'”
  • The Daily Caller: “‘Turned His Back On The People’: Rail Union Worker Lambasts Biden Over Strike Bill”

IS THAT REALLY WHAT’S HAPPENING?

Yes. In an interview on CNN on Friday, Reece Murtagh, a roadway mechanic, said in part:

We have a pro-labor president who loves to pat himself on the back for that and when the going got tough he turned his back on the people he’s supposed to be looking out for.

Roadway Mechanic Reece Murtagh

WHAT’S ANOTHER SIDE OF THIS STORY?

The Democrat-controlled U.S. House passed a proposal that would have given rail workers seven days of paid sick leave, which was the major sticking point throughout negotiations. That proposal ultimately failed in the Senate after falling short of the 60-vote threshold it needed.

Every Democratic senator aside from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) supported the sick leave measure. All but six Republican Senators voted against the proposal.

After voting down the additional sick leave provisions, the Senate voted in favor of the House-passed bill that imposed the terms outlined in the labor agreement brokered by Biden’s special panel of arbitrators.

The deal includes 24% wage increases by 2024, as well as $1,000 annual bonuses over a five-year period. That offer had been rejected by four of the 12 rail unions because it did not include any paid sick days. But with Biden’s signature Friday, rail unions will be forced to accept the deal.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Biden was always likely to take heat for going against his labor union allies but ultimately decided the hit to the economy resulting from a rail strike would be more politically damaging.

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