Author: Kathryn

The House passed legislation that would allow Obama to intervene in any railroad workers’ strike

The House passed legislation that would allow Obama to intervene in any railroad workers’ strike

Congress Looks to Intervene in Rail Dispute as Strike Deadline Looms

WASHINGTON—In a sign of the importance Washington places on working together to resolve the railroad workers’ disputes, the U.S. House passed legislation this week that would allow President Barack Obama to intervene in any railroad workers’ strike in order to ensure that workers can receive compensation and health care.

The bill, introduced by Representative John Conyers (D-MI) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), would require the Labor Department to grant a temporary exemption to the National Mediation Board during the walkout, giving the board permission to hear the workers’ grievances. The board is authorized to issue an injunction and hold the railroad, which has been fighting the walkout in federal court, in contempt of court.

But since the board’s authority to impose a court order is limited by the National Labor Relations Act, and since the board is in recess until March, the legislation would allow the president to intervene and resolve the dispute without the board hearing.

“We can’t continue to allow the federal courts to take away the rights that our railroad workers have earned,” Conyers said on the floor of the House. “If the president is not willing to intervene and to mediate, then the next president will have to take action.”

Markey’s office issued a statement praising the legislation as a “significant step forward in protecting workers’ rights in the railroad industry.” The statement said the legislation would “provide the necessary legal authority for the Department of Labor to intervene when a strike or lockout occurs, and it will help ensure that all workers are brought into the bargaining process rather than being forced to remain on the sidelines.”

Although the legislation was not signed into law, the House passed similar legislation in 2004, and that bill was vetoed by President George W. Bush. That bill would have allowed the National Labor Relations Board to authorize a federal mediator to be used to settle railroad labor disputes, giving the board authority to impose a court order against any party not acting

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