President Biden on Friday signed a bill to implement a labor agreement between rail carriers and worker unions, avoiding a rail strike.

The bill, which just passed the Senate on Thursday by an 80-15 vote and the House on Wednesday by a 290-137 vote, invokes the Railway Labor Act and requires each of the 12 applicable unions to accept the agreement reached with the rail operators in mid-September.

The Senate also held votes on bills that would delay the dates unions could begin a strike by 60 days and a bill that would add seven paid sick days to the agreement – both failed, 52-43 and 25-70.

NCC on Monday joined over 400 organizations in a letter led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to House and Senate leadership urging Congressional intervention to prevent the strike.

“No one wins when the railroads stop running,” the letter said. “While a voluntary agreement with the four holdout unions is the best outcome, the risks to America’s economy and communities simply make a national rail strike unacceptable. Therefore, absent a voluntary agreement, we call on you to take immediate steps to prevent a national rail strike and the certain economic destruction that would follow.”

The full letter can be found here.


In mid-September, major U.S. freight rail operators and the unions representing over one hundred thousand rail workers reached a tentative deal to avoid a strike.

The tentative agreement, reached between 12 unions representing workers across the rail industry and the Class I freight rail operators, included a 24 percent wage increase during a five-year period from 2020 through 2024, including an immediate payout to rail employees on average of $11,000 once the deal is ratified.

The agreement also included an extension to existing employee health care networks, the creation of voluntary assigned days off for employees in thru-freight service, an additional paid day off for every employee represented by the unions, and exemptions to carrier attendance policies for routine and preventive medical care.

More information regarding terms of the deal can be found here.

The National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC), which represents most Class I rail operators including BNSF, Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern, CSX, Kansas City Southern, and the U.S. operations of Canadian National, led negotiations on behalf of the railroad operators.

Eight of the 12 unions had ratified the agreement.

However, four unions ultimately rejected the tentative deal. Each of the four had agreed not to strike before December 9, although rail carriers would begin stopping transport of some materials up to a week before a potential strike date, making the effective deadline earlier.

It would have taken all 12 unions to ratify the agreement and prevent a strike, as unions do not cross the picket lines of other unions.