Biden signs bill to block U.S. railroad strike

STORY: President Joe Biden signed legislation Friday to block a U.S. railroad strike that could have devastated the American economy.

"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."

The Senate voted Thursday to impose a tentative deal reached in September on a dozen unions representing 115,000 workers, who could have gone on strike next week.

But the Senate failed to approve a measure that would have provided sick days to rail workers.

Eight of 12 unions had ratified the deal. But some labor leaders have criticized Biden for imposing a contract that four unions rejected over its lack of paid sick leave.

"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."

Railroads have slashed labor to boost profits in recent years, and have fiercely opposed adding paid sick time that would require them to hire more staff.

A strike could have cost the American economy as much as $2 billion a day, while stranding millions of rail passengers.

Unions had asked for 15 paid sick days under the tentative deal, but railroads settled on none, and just one personal day.

The Teamsters president criticized the Senate vote, saying rail carriers make record profits, but workers get zero sick days, calling them a basic human right.

The new contract includes a 24% pay increase over five years and five annual lump-sum payments of $1000.

Congress invoked its sweeping powers to block strikes involving transportation - authority it does not have in other labor disputes.