The House took the first step towards averting a rail strike, passing legislation to impose an agreement.
But members also voted to pass a measure that would give workers 7 paid sick days.
Both measures now have to pass the Senate, where sick days might encounter resistance.
Congress has taken the first step towards heading off a rail strike and pushing through a new contract for union rail workers — and, through legislative maneuvering, passed a measure that would give workers seven days of sick leave.
A vote to push through a tentative agreement — and thus avert a potentially economy-rattling strike — passed with substantial bipartisan support. 79 Republicans joined 211 Democrats in voting to pass the measure.
The additional measure that would tack on more sick days for workers had much closer margins, with 3 Republicans joining 218 Democrats to pass the resolution.
Paid sick leave, or lack thereof, has emerged as one of the biggest issues among rail workers. Currently, workers have no paid sick days. In the lead up to contract negotiations, workers pushed for 15 paid sick days to be added; they ended up with just one additional personal day, leading many to vote against that agreement.
On Monday, President Joe Biden asked Congress to step in and help avert a strike. Unlike other industries, Congress can step in to help resolve disputes in the railway bargaining process, or even vote to enact an agreement that not all rail unions have voted in favor of.
After four out of the twelve rail unions voted not to ratify a tentative agreement mediated by the White House, and with a strike looming as soon as early December, Biden asked Congress to do just that.
"As a proud pro-labor President, I am reluctant to override the ratification procedures and the views of those who voted against the agreement," Biden said in his statement.
He asked Congress to pass the tentative agreement "without any modifications or delay," although he said he shares "workers' concern about the inability to take leave to recover from illness or care for a sick family member."
"But at this critical moment for our economy, in the holiday season, we cannot let our strongly held conviction for better outcomes for workers deny workers the benefits of the bargain they reached, and hurl this nation into a devastating rail freight shutdown," Biden said.
Some members of Congress responded by pushing for the additional sick day resolution, insisting that legislation on the deal could not move forward without provisions for workers.
"It's no secret that his announcement and calling on Congress to intervene was disappointing to some of these unions — they've stated as much publicly — but I also think that we can turn this into a win, actually," Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told Insider. She said that they're "fighting tooth and nail" to include the sick day amendment.
Sen. Bernie Sanders earlier told reporters that he was "cautiously optimistic" that the House would pass both the tentative agreement and the paid sick leave measure. He later joined Democratic senators including Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Kirsten Gillibrand in a statement commending the House for the passage of the paid sick day measure, and urging the Senate to "quickly take up the House-passed language for a roll call vote."
Ross Grooters, a locomotive engineer in Iowa and co-chair of Railroad Workers United, told Insider that "it's good to see the support that's been building and the recognition that paid sick time is important for railroad workers. It's important for all workers."
But both the tentative agreement and the paid sick leave resolution still need to pass the Senate. If the agreement passed without paid sick leave, "it's going to make life hard for railroad workers," Grooters said.
"Without paid time off under what the railroads are trying to do, it just becomes very difficult — and near impossible — to manage your life and exist outside of the railroads."
Read the original article on Business Insider