Biden says his administration is engaged in talks to avert railroad strike

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By Nandita Bose

NANTUCKET, Mass. (Reuters) – President Joe Biden said on Thursday his administration was involved in negotiations to avert an impending U.S. railroad strike that could shut down supply chains across the country, but added that he had not yet directly engaged with the issue.

Speaking to reporters outside a fire station on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, during a Thanksgiving holiday visit, Biden declined to provide details on how the talks unfolded because it was “the middle of the negotiations”.

“My team has been in contact with all the parties, and in (a) room with the parties and I haven’t engaged directly yet because they’re still talking,” Biden said.

More than 300 groups, including the National Retail Federation and the National Association of Manufacturers, urged Biden last month to get involved to help avert a strike that could slow food and fuel shipments while inflicting billions of dollars damage to an already struggling national economy. .

Earlier this week, several of these groups renewed their calls for Biden and Congress to act quickly to prevent an employer strike or lockout before the holiday season.

A halt in rail traffic could freeze nearly 30% of US freight shipments by weight, fuel inflation and cost the US economy up to $2 billion a day by triggering a cascade of transportation problems affecting sectors Americans in energy, agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare and retail.

On Monday, workers at America’s largest railroad union voted against a tentative agreement reached in September, citing the possibility of a year-end strike.

Unions have criticized the railroad’s sick leave and attendance policies and the lack of paid sick days for short-term illnesses. There is no paid sick leave under the tentative agreement. The unions demanded 15 paid sick days and the railways settled for one personal day.

The Biden administration helped avoid a service cut by arranging last-minute contract talks in September that led to the tentative contract agreement.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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