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Rail deal awaits workers’ sign-off as strike fears wane

By Admin

Reported by Eleanor Mueller, Tanya Snyder and Nick Niedzwiadek for Politico.

As the White House on Thursday celebrated a tentative agreement to avert a nationwide rail strike that could have devastated the economy, union officials cautioned that not everything is signed, sealed and delivered.

Most crucial in the days ahead: Workers across a dozen unions need to vote to ratify the compromise.

“There’s going to be a lot of work to do after today,” AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department President Greg Regan said. “This was a big breakthrough, and we can take a day to reflect on it.” Yet “I don’t want to kid anybody here.”

It may not be an easy sell, especially for the members of the unions that had earlier opposed the recommendations of a White House-appointed emergency board.

Emboldened by a historically tight labor market and an unusually high union approval rate, many workers had already been making plans Wednesday to picket — and could have some qualms about agreeing to a deal that doesn’t deliver everything they initially sought.

Thursday’s agreement “doesn’t mean our employees didn’t want to strike, because they’re angry,” said Dennis Pierce, president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, one of the holdouts on the emergency board’s recommendations. “Our job now is to go out and explain to them what we were able to accomplish that can help improve their lives.”

Nonetheless, the tentative deal — which emerged from 20-plus hours of negotiating — was a major political win for President Joe Biden, whose administration facilitated the labor-management talks, and good news for an economy that has seen little of that lately.

Speaking Thursday from the Rose Garden, Biden called the tentative agreement a “validation” of his belief that unions and employers can work together “for the benefit of everyone.”

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