More than 70 members of the House and Senate sent ato President Biden on Friday to urge him to do everything possible to ensure that rail workers have seven days of paid sick leave.
Lawmakers thanked Biden for his role in negotiating a deal between rail freight carriers and unionized rail workers to prevent a strike that could have happened as early as Friday, which could have crippled supply chains and significantly hurt the economy. national.
They said that while the agreement is much better than the initial proposals the rail industry put forward, it does not include paid sick days for workers who have difficult and dangerous jobs and who “have risked their lives during the pandemic to maintain our economy.” moving.”
The deal, which Congress approved and Biden signed last week, gives rail workers a 24 percent raise in their wages over five years and makes it easier for them to take time off for medical appointments, but it doesn’t include time off. paid for them. recover from an illness or care for a family member.
A separate proposal to add seven days of paid sick leave for workers passed the House but failed in the Senate.
Several Democrats in the Senate voted against the deal when it came to a vote because it did not include a provision for paid sick leave, but the Senate overwhelmingly approved it 80-15. Biden has said he supports providing rail workers with paid sick leave, but wanted it to be a separate bill from the deal to ensure it passed and a strike was avoided.
Members of Congress said in the letter that securing paid sick leave would cost the rail industry $321 million, less than 2 percent of its annual profits.
“If the rail industry can afford to spend $25.5 billion on share buybacks and dividends to enrich its wealthy shareholders, it can afford to treat its workers with the respect and dignity they deserve,” they said.
Lawmakers said Biden should expand an executive order by former President Obama that provided paid sick leave for federal contractors, but not include railroad workers. They also said Labor Secretary Marty Walsh has the authority to set mandatory occupational safety and health standards for businesses that affect interstate commerce under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
They said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has a responsibility to promote safety in all areas of rail operations, reduce rail-related accidents, and reduce deaths, injuries and damage caused by rail carriers.
“Ensuring that workers do not operate trains or inspect rail signals while sick or tired would fundamentally improve the safety of our national rail operations,” they said.
“Over 115,000 rail workers in this country look to you to grant them the dignity on the job they deserve and to ensure that our rail system is safe for its workers and the millions of Americans who cross the rail tracks every day. days,” they added.