President Biden announced on Thursday he was able to help broker a tentative rail deal between freight railroads and workers that averted a potential strike.
The agreement, brokered by administration officials, was seen as a major victory as a strike would have wreaked havoc on the nation's rail system and further disrupted supply chains during a period of economic uncertainty.
Here are three things to know about the deal and how it got done:
Union struck a five-year deal
Under the terms of the five-year deal, which is retroactive to 2020, the Associated Press reported that workers will receive a 24% pay increase and $5,000 in bonuses. Railroads also promised to ease scheduling policies.
The agreement comes as the rail industry has seen profits boom during the pandemic and as rising geopolitical risks, particularly given Russia's war with Ukraine, have put additional strain on U.S. supply chains.
Secretary Walsh brokered the deal
Labor Secretary Marty Walsh secured a tangible and substantial policy victory for the Biden administration. As a result, the former Boston mayor has emerged as a progressive advocate with a plain-speak style reminiscent of Biden during his early career in the Senate.
The deal nearly didn't happen, Politico reported, and Walsh negotiated around the clock to get it done.
"The Biden Administration applauds all parties for reaching this hard-fought, mutually beneficial deal," Walsh wrote on Twitter. "Our rail system is integral to our supply chain and a disruption would have had catastrophic impacts on industries, travelers and families across the country."
Congress was ready to act
Republicans and Democrats appeared poised to pass immediate legislation to avoid the worst impacts of a rail strike.
The Railway Labor Act grants Congress the authority to intervene during worker strikes in industries that are seen as critical to the economy, such as railroads. The last time Congress voted to end a rail strike was in April 1991.
Congress has yet to have faced a major unionized vote in recent history. Should union members ratify the five-year agreement, that trend would continue in a partisan political climate where union workers are increasingly well-mobilized.
Washington-based business advocates collectively applauded the deal, which prevented costs from going up due to disruptions. And in deploying a political playbook that hasn't been used in some time, the Biden Administration also avoided a political debacle so close to the midterm elections.
Kevin Cirilli is a visiting media at the Atlantic Council's Global China Hub and the Krach Institute for Tech Diplomacy at Purdue. Follow him on LinkedIn here.