Congress could intervene as early as Friday to prevent a national railroad strike that would paralyze retailers during the peak holiday shipping season. Earlier this week the National Feed and Grain Association sent a statement to Congress urging them to prepare to enact emergency legislation to avert a strike.
The NGFA's statement urged Congress to enact such legislation imposing the terms recommended by the Presidential Emergency Board on both rail management and rail unions if a comprehensive agreement is not reached by close of business Dec. 1, or if the three unions that have not agreed yet to an additional cooling-off period fail to do so by then.
A strike is looming unless the nation's freight railroads and three labor unions resolve their differences by a 12:01 a.m. Tuesday deadline. President Obama on Oct. 6 established a Presidential Emergency Board and an additional cooling-off period to provide time for the nation's Class I railroads and unions to reach agreement.
"Such a strike – indeed the mere prospect of one as the Dec. 6 deadline approaches – would further imperil an already fragile economic recovery and job market," the NGFA wrote. "It also would have significant adverse impacts on the grain, feed, grain processing and export sectors represented by our membership, which are highly dependent upon freight rail transportation to efficiently and cost-effectively move raw and processed agricultural products to domestic and international markets."
But House lawmakers say they hope the parties will agree to extend the negotiation period for another 60 days to Feb. 8, 2012.
The railroads have reached agreements with 10 of the 13 unions covering about 60% of the 132,000 workers bargaining.
Contract talks are being overseen by a special presidential board in Washington. The unions are not allowed to strike until the cooling off period ends Dec. 6.
This report includes information from the Associated Press.