The AFL-CIO on Wednesday leaned on Congress to grant rail workers' paid sick leave as it votes to impose a contract and shutdown a possible strike, but was silent on lawmakers' intention to usurp negotiations - an intervention that has raised hackles in some parts of the labor world.
"While the tentative agreement unions negotiated this year included many critical gains - significant wage increases, caps on health care premiums and prevention of crew reduction - it also fell short by not including provisions on paid sick leave or fair scheduling. It's now up to Congress to do the right thing by passing paid sick days for rail workers," AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler said in a statement.
The House is set to vote Wednesday on legislation that would impose the terms of a tentative deal between unions and freight companies announced in September but subsequently rejected by several of those unions.
It also plans to vote on a separate bill to add seven days of paid sick leave to the deal, which would address one of the unions' main complaints but faces uncertain prospects in the Senate.
The flurry of activity was spurred by President Joe Biden's request at the outset of the week for Congress to step in ahead of the Dec. 9 end of a cooling-off period, which could trigger a strike.
The White House feared that the prospect of a work stoppage would cause disruption even before then as goods like fertilizer are diverted, and determined that the economic harms outweighed the political cost of short-circuiting organized labor.