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July 18, 2022 11:22 AM, EDT

ATA Praises Biden’s Executive Order During Rail Negotiations

Getty Image of freight moving on railroadA Presidential Emergency Board, which is tasked with communicating and helping railroads and the workforce reach an agreement, went into effect July 18. (foras5/Getty Images)

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American Trucking Associations touted the Biden White House’s recent directive to assist with ongoing freight rail workforce negotiations.

In a move meant to avoid disrupting key aspects of the nation’s supply chain, President Joe Biden on July 15 issued an executive order creating a Presidential Emergency Board.

The board, commonly referred to as a PEB, is tasked with communicating and helping railroads and the workforce arrive at an agreement amid long-standing labor disputes.

Joe Biden

Biden

The board took effect July 18. It consists of a chairperson and two other members, all of whom will be appointed by the president.

Negotiations between the labor force and rail firms have yet to reach agreements with regard to terms associated with work rules and benefits. A labor strike had been projected to commence this month.

According to Biden’s executive order, “These disputes threaten substantially to interrupt interstate commerce to a degree that would deprive a section of the country of essential transportation service.”

“We commend President Biden for taking decisive action today to avert a strike and help ensure the rail sector keeps moving freight at this critical time for our economy by appointing a Presidential Emergency Board,” ATA President Chris Spear said July 15. “In order to move past our supply chain challenges and reduce the inflationary pressure that’s hurting American families, we must continue to steer clear of the kinds of avoidable, unnecessary disruptions to the movement of freight that this strike would have caused.”

Chris Spear

Spear

Emphasizing that ongoing rail labor disputes have the potential to disrupt the intermodal movement of freight, which could agitate supply chain connectivity in the post-pandemic economy, Spear added: “Our nation’s supply chain has faced a wide range of stress factors during the past several months. We are glad the White House recognizes the importance of keeping freight rail running, one of the key modes of freight transportation that is highly interconnected with the trucking industry in delivering goods nationwide.”

The administration’s actions today build upon significant progress it’s made to reinforce the supply chain by relieving port congestion, advancing workforce development programs, and signing the Ocean Shipping Reform Act into law, he said, noting the Biden administration’s efforts to alleviate supply chain bottlenecks at ports and along freight corridors.

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The Ocean Shipping Reform Act bipartisan law aims to enhance market competition, promote U.S. exports and decrease prices for shipping operations.

Per background the White House provided, in creating the PEB “the president has considered input from relevant stakeholders. The president’s goal is to make sure America’s freight rail system continues to run without disruption, delivering the items that our families, communities, farms and businesses rely on.”

“The Presidential Emergency Board will provide a structure for workers and management to resolve their disagreements. The board will investigate the dispute and, within 30 days of its establishment, deliver a report recommending how the dispute should be resolved,” the White House explained. “By statute, the executive order triggers a ‘cooling off’ period intended to keep the parties working toward a negotiated settlement.”

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Freight railroad firms had arrived at a stalemate in their negotiations with unions over labor contracts. The parties have been negotiating for more than two years. This year, the National Mediation Board coordinated talks between the sides. The independent agency mediates in sectors such as railways and airlines.

Other stakeholders reacted to the president’s order. Association of American Railroads President and CEO Ian Jefferies stated, “Railroads remain committed to reaching an agreement that provides their employees well-deserved compensation increases that keep them among the best paid in the nation.”

“We are pleased that President Biden has followed precedent and named a PEB comprised of highly experienced and respected arbitrators to help all parties find a reasonable path forward,” Jefferies said. “An agreement that allows both our hardworking employees and the industry to thrive into the future remains possible.”