Biden Breaks Strike

Eric Wang, Staff Writer


On December 2nd, H.J. Res. 100 was signed by President Biden, forcing a tentative labor agreement between rail companies and unions. This marked the anticlimactic ending to a long-awaited railroad strike, which would paralyze many industries dependent on rail ahead of the holiday season. Labor advocates widely criticized the move, arguing that Biden was giving into big business and ignoring crucial demands from workers.


Since mid-July, disagreements between rail companies and unions have emerged surrounding the creation of a new labor contract. Rail workers currently do not receive sick leave, and taking a single day off for a personal illness can result in their termination. Following the federal deregulation of the railroad industry in the 1980s and subsequent private consolidation, rail executives cut costs by laying off employees to increase profits for shareholders. Resultantly, modern railroads run on a bare-bones labor force. The absence of one worker can significantly hinder the operation of an entire railroad, so companies prohibit workers from taking days off instead of hiring more employees, which would be another expense. 


Fearing the economic consequences of a strike, the government arranged a tentative contract on September 15th. In the following weeks, however, three out of four unions rejected the deal, dissatisfied over the lack of sick days granted. By November 28th, Biden stepped in and asked Congress to avert the forthcoming strike by passing legislation forcing the contract to go into effect. Biden, who frequently asserts that he’s a champion of organized labor reassured he was a “proud pro-labor president” in a statement released later that day.


But at this critical moment for our economy… we cannot let our strongly held conviction for better outcomes for workers deny [them] the benefits of the bargain they reached and hurl this Nation into a devastating rail freight shutdown,” he continued. 


The decision was slammed by many, including Rail Workers United, an organization comprising railroad workers and supporters. RWU denounced Biden’s decision, responding that “[Politicians] back the powerful and wealthy Class One rail carriers every time” despite praising rail workers for being essential workers throughout the pandemic. On Twitter, thousands of users replied to the president, ridiculing his sudden change of mind.


The US has seen a historical increase in labor organizing in recent times, from workers forming the first-ever Amazon union in April to thousands of Starbucks baristas and graduate students going on strike. At first glance, a rail strike seems irrelevant to us as students, but issues directly concerning us, such as lower class sizes, better school funding, and improved working conditions for teachers have also been fought for through collective bargaining. By showing our support not only for striking teachers but other workers too, we can help build a future where we can advocate for ourselves and create lasting change. 

  • Introducing the new agreement passed by congress
  • Lead into next
  • Since july, disagreement
  • Workers want better working conditions
  • Timeline leading up to strike (emphasize the economic impact)
  • Nov 28th – biden asks congress to intervene, says hes pro union but worried about economic impact
  • Relevance to wy students (something about parallels between teachers union/rail union and collective bargaining)