The Biden administration is once again taking credit for an outcome that may not have actually caused — this time claiming responsibility for a major freight carrier offering paid sick leave to its workers.
Just a few months after negotiating with major railroads to avoid a strike, where employees were fighting for paid sick leave but the negotiators ultimately avoided guaranteeing it for them, the Biden administration is trying to take credit for one freight carrier acquiescing to the request.
On Tuesday, rail company CSX announced a deal that would provide four days of paid sick leave for roughly 5,000 employees, along with three personal days.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, the Biden administration took credit for pushing the negotiations, despite previously pushing railroad unions to accept a deal without the paid sick leave — and ultimately signing a law imposing that deal on workers in December without their input.
CSX made the deal with two unions, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way (BMWED), an organization representing train engineers, and the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen (BRC), representing mechanics and mechanical workers.
The rail company released a statement about the deal.
“CSX is committed to listening to our railroaders and working with their representatives to find solutions that improve their quality of life and experience as employees,” the statement read. “These agreements demonstrate that commitment and are a direct result of the collaborative relationship we are working to cultivate with all of the unions that represent CSX employees. We greatly appreciate the leadership of the BMWED and BRC in working towards these agreements.”
A Biden administration official told Axios that the White House was in contact with CSX before the announcement. Officials — including Secretary of Labor Martin Walsh, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, and National Economic Council director Brian Deese — have all reportedly pushed the issue during phone calls with executives from CSX, Union Pacific, BNSF and Norfolk Southern.
Speaking with reporters aboard Air Force One, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre asserted that the Biden administration deserved credit for the outcome of these negotiations.
“[T]he president signed a bill in December that averted a rail disruption and ensured union members would receive the 24% pay raise in their tentative agreements,” she said. “When signing this bill, the president committed to continuing the fight to secure paid sick leave for all workers, including rail workers.”
“These agreements came following continued advocacy and involvement from the Biden administration, pushing railroad leadership to reach an agreement that secured paid sick leave for workers, which continues to be a priority for President Biden,” Jean-Pierre continued.
“The agreements between CSX, BMWE, and BRC to provide paid sick days are good steps, ensuring no covered worker has to risk their income to take a day off when they are sick,” she added. “Securing paid sick leave for rail workers will continue to be a priority for the president. And we are strongly urging other rail companies to follow suit.”
Despite her claims, Biden administration officials — including Walsh — did not include paid sick leave in the original deal they negotiated and tentatively agreed to in September. Several of the largest railroad unions rejected that agreement due to it not providing paid sick leave, prompting the Biden administration to push Congress to pass the deal as a law that left the workers without a proper solution.
President Joe Biden himself even pressured Congress to pass the deal.
“I am calling on Congress to pass legislation immediately to adopt the Tentative Agreement between railroad workers and operators — without any modifications or delay — to avert a potentially crippling national rail shutdown,” the president said in a statement in November.
Congress passed legislation to impose the deal on workers on December 1, blocking an amendment in the Senate with bipartisan support that would have provided seven days of paid sick leave. On December 2, Biden signed the deal into law in an effort to prevent a strike that would have had a serious effect on the U.S. economy.
Today’s rail vote was a significant one. A few thoughts – pic.twitter.com/IYfPBxL14E
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) December 1, 2022