Senate votes to avert a railroad strike, sending agreement to Joe Biden’s desk

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The Senate voted 80-15 to avoid a railroad strike by voting to pass an agreement President Joe Biden negotiated right before the holiday season, but voted against granting railroad workers seven days of paid sick leave.

The vote comes after the House passed the agreement on Wednesday after Mr Biden had requested Congress to intervene to prevent a strike.

Mr Biden had announced a tentative agreement between railroad unions and railroad companies back in September. But four of the 12 unions involved rejected the deal since they wanted to have seven days of paid sick leave.

As a result, the House voted to avert the railroad strike while having a separate vote on providing seven days of paid sick leave to railroad workers, with both measures passing. Had a vote not happened by 9 December, the workers would have gone on strike, which Mr Biden warned would cost 765,000 jobs, including many union jobs.

On Thursday, Secretaries of Labour Marty Walsh and Transportation Pete Buttigieg visited the Senate to discuss the vote and the plan to avoid a railroad strike.

All total, 80 Senators voted to avert the strike, 15 voted against it and one voted present. Initially, some Senators voted wanted to allow for a 60-day cooling-off period to allow for both the railroad companies and the unions to continue negotiations in good faith.

“I think a better approach is sending every you know all the issues back to the bargaining table,” Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican, told The Independent. But the amendment failed 69 to 26.

In addition, Senator Bernie Sanders in turn proposed an amendment to allow for paid sick leave for rail workers. But Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, opposed the amendment on the grounds that the government shouldn’t get involved with labour disputes.

In the end, the bill received 52 yes votes but it did not pass a filibuster. Republican Senators Mike Braun of Indiana, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John Kennedy of Louisiana voted for it.

“Well, the good news is that the House of Representatives voted to guarantee paid sick days to workers in the rail industry,” Mr Sanders told The Independent. “We had every Democrat except one. And we had six Republicans. And I’m proud of that.”

Mr Cruz faulted the White House for saying that the deal was done back in September before the election.

Ultimately, Mr Sanders, an Independent from Vermont, joined Democratic Senators John Hickenlooper of Colorado, Kirsten Gillirband of New York, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Jeff Merkley of Oregon to oppose the final deal to avert a strike. In addition, Republican Senators Tim Scott of South Carolina, Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, Susan Collins of Maine, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Rick Scott of Florida Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Mr Cruz and Mr Rubio voted against the deal.

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