Railroads and workers’ unions reached a tentative labor agreement early Thursday to avert a national rail strike.
“The tentative agreement reached tonight is an important win for our economy and the American people,” President Joe Biden said in a statement announcing the deal. “It is a win for tens of thousands of rail workers who worked tirelessly through the pandemic to ensure that America’s families and communities got deliveries of what have kept us going during these difficult years.”
The last-minute deal ends a threat to shut the transportation network after days of growing tension.
About 40% of the nation’s long-distance trade is moved by rail. The strike of more than 7,000 trains would have cost up to $2 billion per day.
On Wednesday negotiators from railroad carriers and unions met with Labor Secretary Marty Walsh as both sides tried to negotiate a deal ahead of Friday’s strike deadline.
The new agreement would improve rail workers’ pay and working conditions. Biden thanked railroad unions and companies for negotiating “in good faith.”
According to a union spokesperson, tentative agreements are subject to ratification by the unions’ membership, a process that could take at least a week.