Statement by Chairman Payne, Jr. on Averting Rail Shutdown

Statement by Chairman Payne, Jr.

on Averting Rail Shutdown

“It is unfortunate that Congress has to assume the role of mediator to avoid the widespread repercussions of a rail industry lockout or strike due to the inability of the railroads to negotiate with the nearly 115,000 dedicated, hard-working, and essential freight rail workers who’ve kept our economy alive.

“As Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, the decision to intervene and prevent a freight rail shutdown was by no means easy.

“Several months ago, due fully to the ingenuity of President Biden’s economic recovery policies and record-breaking job growth, our nation was fortunate enough to avoid a recession. Any disruption to the freight rail industry would cost our economy $2 billion dollars per day in just the first week. Our nation remains deeply reliant on the rail industry and more specifically, its workers.

“With nearly one-third of the nation’s freight moved by rail, the failure to prevent a rail stoppage would not only stunt our economic growth and interrupt supply chains around the world, but also skyrocket the costs of fuel and food, just before winter, putting us dangerously close to the possibility of a recession, again.

“This would impact every American family – and increase the cost of food at the grocery store, along with the costs of other essential goods. It would also produce higher prices at the pumps and create long lines at gas stations across America, resulting from fuel shortages. It will even disrupt the transport of critical medications for Americans in need.

“The rail industry should be ashamed for failing to meet the needs of the men and women who’ve demonstrated nothing short of courage over the past couple of years. As railroad management implemented drastic changes that brought steep workforce cuts, closures of yards and shops and associated jobs, and pushed workers to the brink, railroad workers showed up every day and night out of their commitment to our country. They even did so during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and as they suffered through strict attendance policies –  all in order to keep our economy alive. Paid sick time is a basic necessity required to recover from being ill and help prevent sick workers from making preventable safety mistakes.

“Time has proven that the railroad industry is unwilling to settle this dispute, despite having more than enough money to pay for these basic benefits. While taking in record breaking profits and CEO salaries that can exceed 144 times what the average railroad worker makes, they are unwilling to bend for paid-sick time off. They know that their profits were built on the backs of railroaders and their unwillingness to bend is shameful.

“Despite the challenging decision to intervene, I will continue to press the rail industry to do what they know to be right by their workers, and I will introduce legislation to guarantee paid sick leave for rail workers.”

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