SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — It has the potential to disrupt the supply chain and devastate the economy. That is what experts said about a threatened nationwide rail strike earlier this week.

Many are breathing a sigh of relief after word of a late night labor agreement that will keep that from happening. It averts a shut down of freight and passenger trains. 

“Fantastic, because there is no other way unless you drive hours or get a taxi to union station to catch the trains that are running on the Penn Line,” said Maryanne King, a train passenger. “So, yeah, good news. Thank you.”

A tentative agreement was reached and must now be ratified by unionized rail workers. That deal came through early Thursday morning.

If that agreement had not been made before the Friday deadline, it would have cleared the way for workers to legally strike, which could have worsened supply chain issues here in the coastal empire.

The potential rail strike would have meant large backups at the ports of Savannah and Brunswick, as well as further inflation. It would have triggered higher prices all around, especially at the pumps.

But a last minute deal averted that disaster. 

“Together we reached an agreement, you reached an agreement that would keep our critical rail system working and avoid disruptions to our economy,” President Biden said. “This agreement is validation. Validation of what I’ve always believed, that unions and management can work together for the benefit of everyone.”

Biden said the agreement will guarantee rail workers better pay improved working conditions and peace of mind about health care costs for their employees. 

In a statement to WSAV, The Georgia Ports Authority said in part, “Georgia Ports Authority is pleased the parties involved have reached a tentative agreement, averting a rail stoppage… operations at the Port of Savannah remain fluid as a record volume of cargo moves by truck and rail on and off the terminal.”

It went on to say automobiles and machinery will continue moving through the Port of Brunswick as usual, that agreement will now go to union leaders for a vote.

It has been rejected several times before. But for now, the potential for a strike has been avoided for at least the next several weeks.

​“With this agreement, railroad companies will be able to retain and recruit workers,” Biden said. “They’ll be able to continue to operate effectively as a vital price of our economy, they’re really the backbone of our economy. To the American people, this agreement can avert the significant damage that any shutdown would have brought.

Friday, Republican candidate for Sen. Herschel Walker is scheduled to tour The Georgia Ports Authority.