news senate vote avoids rail shutdown in u s

Senate votes on bill to prevent potentially catastrophic rail system shutdown

train tracks
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The U.S. Senate voted 80 to 15 Thursday to avoid a rail shutdown.

The U.S. House voted in favor on Wednesday.

President Joe Biden warned a strike by workers and shutdown of the nation’s rail system could tip the economy into a recession.

Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine responded with a statement.

“We’re relieved that we averted a rail shutdown, which would have had disastrous consequences on our economy right before the holidays. But we’re disappointed that our colleagues rejected a separate bill we supported to provide sick days for our rail workers. The workers who keep our trains and economy running are invaluable. They need and deserve paid sick leave. Especially after COVID, the notion of seven days of paid sick leave for full-time workers is basic common sense. It keeps coworkers and customers healthier when sick employees are able to take time off to attend to their health needs. And this adds to the productivity of workplaces. We will continue to look for ways to protect workers,” the Senators said in a press release.

According to CNN, without the Senate vote Thursday, a strike could have happened as early as Dec. 9, and created disruptions in commuter rail service, shortages and halted factory production.

On Friday, Biden signed the legislation to avoid what he called an “economic catastrophe.”

“Our nation’s rail system is literally the backbone of our supply chain, as you all well know, and so much of what we rely on is delivered on a rail, from clean water to food and gas, and every other good,” Biden said Friday.

Rail workers will receive a 24 percent pay increase in the next five years. Biden said that although this bill does not include paid sick leave, he will continue to work on making that happen in a future deal.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.