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Rail Strike Is Averted

A rail strike threatening the holiday season has been averted now that the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the American Train Dispatchers Association have come to a tentative agreement with U.S. freight railroads. The announcement came just before Congressional intervention.

A freight-rail work stoppage would have cost the U.S. economy about $2 billion a day, according the Association of American Railroads, a Washington-based group.

Days earlier the National Retail Federation released a letter to Congress asking lawmakers to be prepared to step in if railroad unions go on strike during the retail industry’s most important shopping season of the year.

“For retailers, a strike during the busy holiday shopping season could be devastating,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay told members of the House and Senate. “It is imperative that Congress recognize the severe economic harm threatened by the failure to reach agreement with the remaining rail unions and move quickly to prevent a rail strike that would prove devastating to both businesses and consumers.”

“I applaud all the stakeholders who worked to avert a work stoppage that would have hurt our nation’s economy just as the holiday season gets underway,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said in an e-mailed statement. “It is Congress’ constitutional duty to ensure the unfettered flow of interstate commerce, and to protect the nation’s economic well being.”

The agreements call for raises of more than 20 percent over six years, A. Kenneth Gradia, a labor conference official, said in the group’s statement. Ten unions have tentative deals and two have ratified agreements. The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees plans to bargain into February.

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