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In the News: Railway Labor Act Impact on Rail and Airline Workers

Earlier this month, transportation unions were back in the headlines as the Biden administration called on Congress to take action to avert a strike in the commercial rail industry. As passenger service agents, we have more in common with railroad workers than you might think. Under the Railway Labor Act (RLA), the National Mediation Board oversees negotiations in the railroad and airline industries, but if all efforts to reach an agreement fail, Congress can step in. The Biden administration helped broker a tentative agreement in September, but members of some of the affected unions rejected the deal. Congress voted to impose a deal on workers to stop a strike planned for December 9. The House of Representatives voted to support paid sick days, but the Senate failed to support that provision in a 52-43 vote. Biden signed the “no strike” legislation on December 1.

Many investors are now urging rail companies to agree to workers’ demands for fear of significant staff shortages on the horizon as exhausted workers leave the workforce. Secretary of Labor Matt Walsh has said he will continue to fight for paid sick time off for rail workers and other workers as well.

AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler put out a statement following the Senate vote saying, “While rail workers won significant wage increases and other important gains today, it’s deeply disappointing that 43 senators sided with multibillion-dollar rail corporations to block desperately needed paid sick days.”