Rail union official: ‘We don’t want to strike. We want what’s just’

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A top rail labor official said Tuesday that their union does not want to go on strike but just wants fair treatment, a day after Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Congress would try to pass legislation to avert a national strike that could cripple supply chains.

“We don’t want to strike. We want what’s just,” said Matt Weaver, the legislative director for Ohio for the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, one of the labor unions representing rail workers.

Weaver said on “CNN This Morning” that he does not believe labor is “that near” a strike, as most members do not want to go on a picket line.

The addition of paid sick days to a tentative agreement that was reached in September has become a major sticking point for some workers to approve a deal. Without an agreement, a strike could begin on Dec. 9.

President Biden has declared his support for the agreement, which would raise workers’ wages by 14 percent and boost medical care for workers whose pay has been frozen. He urged Congress on Monday to take action to avoid a strike, arguing one would be too costly for the economy.

Management and labor negotiators have given their approval to the deal, but four unions, including Weaver’s, have rejected it.

Congress is trying to pass the tentative agreement to avoid the rail strike, which would be the first in 30 years.

Some members of Congress have called for some changes to be made to the deal, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said on Monday that the deal does not go far enough in supporting workers.

But Biden has said any changes to the deal could risk delays and a major shutdown that inflicts harm on the economy, though he does sympathize with the workers wanting paid leave to recover from an illness or care for a family member.

Weaver said rail workers seem to be both “essential” and “expendable” and added that Biden should impose paid sick days into the tentative agreement. He said he believes many more of his union’s members would vote to approve a deal that included paid sick leave.

“We want, in this day and age of high inflation and a pandemic around illness, we would like paid sick days,” he said.

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