Railroad strike impacts local workers, businesses

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(ABC 6 News) – The U.S. Senate has voted to prevent a possible rail worker strike that could happen as soon as next week.

President Biden is warning a nationwide rail work stoppage would harm the economy and is expected to act quickly and sign the measure. Experts believe a strike could have cost the American economy two billion dollars a day.

Thursday’s developments bring a sigh of relief for many business owners that rely on rail roads .

Rail workers are viewing the federal government’s role in ending the rail strike as a gross overstep.

“I’m outraged. I am outraged that the President of the United States that is allegedly pro-labor, is actually anti-union,” said Marilee Taylor, who worked for rail company BNSF for 34 years.

She says rail workers are exhausted with very few opportunities for rest or self-care, adding that Congress is taking yet another option away.

“It’s the only weapon we have left. That’s the only leverage we have.”

Workers rejected the latest contract from railroad management largely because it did not include any universal paid sick leave.

“These are inhuman serf-like conditions that are killing us. It’s killing us,” Taylor said.

The Senate rejected a House amendment that faced stiff republican opposition that would’ve given Taylor and her colleagues what they wanted: 7 days paid sick leave guaranteed.

“I think every working person in the nation who was taking a look at that said ‘oh no, if they could do that to them…'”

Some business owners are also apprehensive of Congress forcing the contract agreement. Jeremiah Watson is the CEO of Infinite Recycled Technologies in Albert Lea. His business fills about two rail cars per day with recycled glass. Two rail cars can fill anywhere from five to 10 truck loads.

“It’s cost prohibitive. It just would not work,” Watson said of switching to trucks.

He has mixed feelings about the federal government stepping in.

“As a business person, I want our business to be able to keep functioning and to service our customers. On that level, I think it’s good news,” Watson said.

“As a person that appreciates the freedom that we have, I think it’s a tricky situation. On a personal level I find that challenging,” he added.

President Biden has vowed to sign the legislation as soon as it gets to his desk.