The Associated Press
OMAHA, Neb. -- Business groups are increasing the pressure on lawmakers to intervene and block a railroad strike before next month's deadline in the stalled contract talks.
A coalition of more than 400 business groups sent a letter to Congressional leaders Monday urging them to step into the stalled talks because of fears about the devastating potential impact of a strike that could force many businesses to shut down if they can't get the rail deliveries they need. Commuter railroads and Amtrak would also be affected in a strike because many of them use tracks owned by the freight railroads.
The business groups led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers and National Retail Federation said even a short-term strike would have a tremendous impact and the economic pain would start to be felt even before the Dec. 9 strike deadline because the railroads would stop hauling hazardous chemicals, fertilizers and perishable goods up to a week beforehand to keep those products from being stranded somewhere along the tracks.
"A potential rail strike only adds to the headwinds facing the U.S. economy," the businesses wrote. "A rail stoppage would immediately lead to supply shortages and higher prices. The cessation of Amtrak and commuter rail services would disrupt up to 7 million travelers a day. Many businesses would see their sales disrupted right in the middle of the critical holiday shopping season."
A similar group of businesses sent another letter to President Joe Biden last month urging him to play a more active role in resolving the contract dispute.
Congressional leaders and the White House have said they are monitoring the contract talks closely but haven't indicated when they might act or what they will do. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said leaders are aware of the situation with the rail negotiations and will monitor the talks in the coming days.
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., said on Fox News Sunday that Congressional intervention is a last resort, but lawmakers will have to be ready to act.
"Congress will not let this strike happen. That's for sure," said Fitzpatrick who helps lead a bipartisan group of 58 lawmakers. "It would be devastating to our economy. So, we'll get to a resolution one way or another."
A White House spokeswoman has said that a rail strike would be "unacceptable."
Congress has the power to impose contract terms on the workers, but it's not clear what they might include if they do that. They could also force the negotiations to continue into the new year.