House Speaker Nancy Pelosi moved Wednesday to add seven days of paid sick leave for railroad workers, against the wishes of President Biden, as Democrats sought to impose a labor agreement that would prevent a strike.
The last-minute move by Mrs. Pelosi angered Republicans, who said Democrats were going back on a pledge not to change the terms of the tentative labor agreement. The contract supported by eight of 12 railroad workers’ unions called for one day of paid leave.
“They’re trying to renegotiate this whole process,” said Rep. Sam Graves Jr., Missouri Republican. “The president failed. The administration failed. That’s the reason this was brought to Congress.”
He called the move to add paid sick leave “a political stunt.”
The House is voting on a resolution to add paid sick time before voting on the full contract, which calls for 24% pay raises over five years and $1,000 bonuses per year.
Mr. Biden asked Congress to step in, facing a potentially disastrous railroad strike on Dec. 9. The bill that lawmakers are considering would impose a compromise labor agreement brokered by his administration that was voted down by four of the 12 unions representing more than 100,000 employees at large freight rail carriers. The unions have threatened to strike if an agreement can’t be reached before the Dec. 9 deadline.
SEE ALSO: Split widens between labor, Biden on move to impose contract on railroad workers to avert strike
Mrs. Pelosi said in a letter to lawmakers that she was moving to impose the contract “with great reluctance.”
“We must act to prevent a catastrophic strike that would touch the lives of nearly every family: erasing hundreds of thousands of jobs, including union jobs; keeping food and medicine off the shelves; and stopping small businesses from getting their goods to market,” she said.
Rep. Rick Crawford, Arkansas Republican, said Democrats were trying to change the contract at the 11th hour.
“We are here today because of the colossal failure of Joe ‘Union’ Biden, the president who has by his own declaration been the most union-friendly president in history,” Mr. Crawford said. “Joe Amtrak, Joe Lunchbox, whatever you want to call him, he has punted this to us to deal with his colossal mistake.”
The president asked Congress to impose the tentative agreement without changes, saying a failure to pass the bill and a resulting strike could mean a huge blow to the economy.
• This story is based in part on wire service reports.