America’s union is negotiating to avoid closing railroads

U.S. President Joe Biden travels to Wisconsin and Pennsylvania on Labor Day

The Labor Department said the meeting was the latest in “the Biden administration’s continued commitment and practical efforts to encourage the parties to reach a mutually beneficial agreement.”

President Joe Biden’s administration said Tuesday it is preparing contingency plans to ensure the delivery of critical goods if the U.S. rail system shuts down, while pushing for a deal to avoid a strike that would affect railroads and unions. Freight and passenger transport.

A shutdown could cripple nearly 30% of U.S. freight traffic, fuel inflation, disrupt food and fuel supplies, cost the U.S. economy about $2 billion a day and cause transportation problems.

Railroads Union Pacific, Berkshire Hathaway’s BNSF, CSX and Norfolk Southern had until one minute past midnight Friday to reach preliminary agreements with three unions representing about 60,000 workers.

If an agreement is not reached, union strikes or employers may lock out. But the railroads and unions could also agree to stay at the negotiating table, or the Democratic-led U.S. Congress could step in by extending negotiations or setting settlement terms.

The push from the Biden administration comes as food, energy, auto and retail companies urge Congress to intervene. They say a rail shutdown could affect everything from global grain deliveries to Christmas shopping shipments.

According to the Corn Refiners Association and the National Corn Growers Association, the strike “will cripple America’s agricultural production and supply chains and exacerbate food price inflation.”

Railroads provide 24% of US grain transportation, half of which (691,000 carloads) is corn. Grain exports scheduled for Thursday this week will be cancelled.

“A key issue is ensuring the supply of major hazardous materials that rely on rail transport, such as chlorine for water treatment plants,” a White House official told Reuters on Tuesday. The Railways on Monday halted shipments of hazardous materials such as chlorine and chemicals used in fertilizers to prevent them from being stranded at unsafe locations when train services are halted.

The U.S. Energy Department relies on railroads to transport coal, crude oil, ethanol and other commodities.

American passenger rail Amtrak, which uses tracks maintained by freight railroads, is facing increasing disruptions. Amtrak said it will cancel trains on an additional seven long-distance routes on Wednesday, after it began canceling trains on four long-distance routes on Tuesday.

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