Railroads

AFL-CIO urges Congress to add paid sick leave to rail contract

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The AFL-CIO on Wednesday called on Congress to add paid sick leave to a contract between rail workers and railroads. 

The labor federation’s plea comes as lawmakers prepare to force through a tentative deal to prevent a strike that would cripple the U.S. economy. While some rail workers voted down the contract proposal due to an absence of paid sick days, lawmakers are considering attaching seven days of paid sick leave to the deal.

“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,” AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler said in a statement.

“It’s now up to Congress to do the right thing by passing paid sick days for rail workers.”

Lawmakers are all but certain to pass legislation to block a strike this week, as railroads would begin shutting down some of their services this weekend ahead of the Dec. 9 deadline. The only question is whether they will modify the contract to meet workers’ demands. 

“Put up or shut up. If you can’t vote for this, to give workers today, who really have hard jobs, dangerous jobs, if you can’t guarantee them paid sick leave, don’t tell anybody that you stand with working families,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes on Tuesday night. 

Democrats initially planned to force through a tentative agreement negotiated with the help of the Biden administration in September that didn’t provide paid sick days. They pledged to keep the deal unchanged because they assumed efforts to make the contract more worker-friendly wouldn’t earn the support of the 10 GOP senators needed for passage.

But a handful of Republicans, led by Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), have said they would consider adding paid sick leave to the contract, prompting Democratic leaders to change course.

“I will not vote for any deal that does not have the support of the rail workers,” Rubio said in a statement Tuesday.

Tags contract Liz Shuler paid sick leave rail railroad sick days strike workers
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