White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that the White House is developing contingency plans if a pair of major rail unions go on strike.
The potential strike is already causing impacts throughout the U.S. According to Amtrak, routes between Chicago and Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle, Chicago and San Francisco, and San Antonio and Los Angeles are all being disrupted.
Although the negotiations do not include Amtrak or its employees, Amtrak runs most of its trains outside the northeast on tracks operated by the freight-rail industry.
Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday the White House is identifying which supply chains would be most disrupted. She added that the White House is working with truckers, air freight and other operators to ensure fewer disruptions to the supply chain.
SMART-TD and BLET, two of the largest freight labor unions, said they are prepared for a potential strike to begin at the end of Friday.
“It is the rail carriers that refuse to reach an acceptable agreement,” the unions said in a statement. “In fact, it was abundantly clear from our negotiations over the past few days that the railroads show no intentions of reaching an agreement with our Unions.”
The Biden administration got involved during the summer by getting the sides to hold off on a strike during a 60-day cooling-off period. That period expires at the end of the day Friday.
During that time, the Presidential Emergency Board came up with a recommended contract for the sides, which included a 24% compounded wage increase during the five-year period from 2020 through 2024, with a 14.1% wage increase effective immediately for union employees. The retroactive pay increase would provide an average of $11,000 per employee in back pay.
The recommendation also would give employees additional paid time off and cap employee insurance contributions at 15%.
The Association of American Railways said it is ready to reach union agreements based on the Biden administration’s recommendations. Rail operators reached agreements on Sunday with three major rail unions but said the two remaining unions are making demands beyond what Biden’s arbitrators recommended.