(The Hill) — President Biden on Thursday said he supports increasing paid leave accommodations for rail workers, but that it should be addressed separately from a congressional bill to avoid a work stoppage that he warned could cause a recession.
“I think we’re going to get it done, but not within this agreement,” Biden said when asked if the rail workers deserve more than one day of paid sick leave. “We’re going to avoid the rail strike, keep the rails running, keep things moving, and I’m going to go back and we’re going to get paid leave, not just for rail workers, but for all workers.”
Shortly after Biden spoke, the Senate rejected a proposal to provide rail workers the additional sick leave the unions had sought.
Biden on Monday called on Congress to intervene in the impasse that had union leaders and rail workers at odds and brought the U.S. closer to a rail strike, which threatened to cripple the economy and ravage supply chains. The deadline to reach an agreement is Dec. 9.
The president and his team helped negotiate a tentative agreement in September between the freight rail carriers and union workers that provided workers with 24% raises over five years and allows for time off for medical appointments. But it did not include more than one day of paid sick leave, a sticking point for many union members and some Democrats.
The House voted Wednesday to force the freight rail carriers and unions to accept the contract negotiated in September. The chamber separately voted to approve a separate version of the deal that included seven paid sick days.
Minutes after Biden made the remarks, the Senate rejected a proposal to provide additional sick leave before voting on the House-passed bill.
Just before the Senate’s vote Thursday, Biden said lawmakers should not let concerns about paid sick leave become an obstacle to avoiding a work stoppage.
“If in fact this shuts down over the question of one to five or seven or nine or whatever the number is… of paid leave days, it’s going to immediately cost 750,000 jobs and cause a recession,” Biden said, arguing what had been negotiated in September was “so much better than anything they ever had.”
“I’m going to continue to fight for paid leave for not only rail workers but for all American workers,” Biden said.