Biden says legislation to avert rail strike prevents an ‘economic catastrophe’

Before signing legislation that imposes a labor agreement between rail companies and labor unions and heads off a strike, President Biden said on Friday that the law avoids an “economic catastrophe,” adding that a “rail shutdown would have devastated our economy.”

Video Transcript

JOE BIDEN: The bill I'm about to sign ends a difficult rail dispute and helps our nation avoid what, without a doubt, would have been an economic catastrophe at a very bad time in the calendar. Our nation's rail system is literally the backbone of our supply chain, as you all well know, and so much of what we rely on is delivered on our rail. From clean water to food and gas, and every other good.

Rail shutdown would have devastated our economy. Without freight rail, many of the US industries would literally shut down. In the event of a shutdown, my economic advisors report that as many as 765,000 Americans, many of them union members themselves, would have been put out of work for the first time and-- excuse me, within the first two weeks of the strike alone.

Communities could have lost access to chemicals necessary to ensure clean drinking water. Farms and ranches across the country would have been unable to feed their livestock. And thanks to the bill Congress passed and what I'm about to sign, we've spared the country that catastrophe.

At the same time, we ensured workers are going to get a historic 24% wage increase over the next five years, improve working conditions, and peace of mind around their health care. And look, I know this bill doesn't have paid sick leave that these rail workers and, frankly, every worker in America deserves, but that fight isn't over.

I didn't commit we were going to stop just because we couldn't get it in this bill, that we were going to stop fighting for it. I've supported paid sick leave for a long time. I'm gonna continue that fight till we succeed.

And I want to thank Congress, Democrats and Republicans, for acting so quickly. I know this was a tough vote for members of both parties. It was tough for me. But it was the right thing to do at the moment to save jobs, to protect millions of working families from harm and disruption, and to keep supply chains stable around the holidays. And to continue the progress we made and we continue to see on the economy.