Calls for Congress to intervene as rail unions reject deal

The president and CEO of the federation which represents the US retail industry has described news of rail strikes in the run up to Christmas as “devastating for business”.

The National Retail Federation’s Matthew Shay made his comments following the announcement that a fourth rail union has rejected the tentative agreement brokered by the Biden administration among the labour unions and freight railroads.

“Millions of hardworking Americans rely on the freight rail system for their jobs and the economic security of our country,” he said. “A nationwide rail strike during the peak holiday season will be devastating for American businesses, consumers and the US economy.

“American businesses and families are already facing increased prices due to persistent inflation, and a rail strike will create greater inflationary pressures and will threaten business resiliency. Congress must intervene immediately to avoid a rail strike and a catastrophic shutdown of the freight rail system.”

Shay continued: “Smooth and stable operations on the rails is absolutely crucial this holiday season and should not be derailed by a rejection of the contract. Eight of the 12 unions have ratified the agreement, while four have rejected it. The parties must work out the issues and ratify the contract without a disruption to the system. If not, Congress must step in to prevent a strike before the end of the cooling off period on December 8.”

According to a report from the Association of American Railroads, a nationwide rail shutdown could halt nearly 7,000 freight trains and cost more than $2 billion a day.

It comes as the National Retail Federation, said an estimated 166.3 million people are planning to shop from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday this year. This figure is almost 8 million more people than last year and is the highest estimate since NRF began tracking this data in 2017.

“While there is much speculation about inflation’s impact on consumer behaviour, our data tells us that this Thanksgiving holiday weekend will see robust store traffic with a record number of shoppers taking advantage of value pricing,”  Shay said. “We are optimistic that retail sales will remain strong in the weeks ahead, and retailers are ready to meet consumers however they want to shop with great products at prices they want to pay.”

According to the survey, more than two-thirds (69%) of holiday shoppers plan to shop during Thanksgiving weekend this year. The top reasons consumers plan to shop are because the deals are too good to pass up (59%), because of tradition (27%) or because it is something to do (22%) over the holiday.

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