A freight railroad strike will have “devastating” consequences for the US. economy and will significantly set back any progress made in the past year to curb U.S. inflation rates, the president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers warned on Wednesday.
“If this goes south and we see a strike, it could be devastating for manufacturers, it could be devastating for consumers,” Jay Timmons told Fox News, stressing that “we just need to see this thing get done.”
Unions representing rail workers turned down a proposed deal with rail carriers on Wednesday and are reportedly planning to move forward with a strike demanding further concessions from railroads that would improve working conditions for members.
The Biden administration has been involved in the negotiations to avert a strike, which the Association of American Railroads (AAR) says would cost upward of $2 billion per day, hurting businesses and consumers alike.
Timmons said the country should brace for a “potential disaster” if a deal is not reached by Friday’s deadline.
“We say potential because there is still time to get this resolved, but there’s only a few days left,” he said on “America Reports.” “We really need to get this under control and this is a compromise. These negotiations, they’re always compromises. But this is the largest single increase in wages we have ever seen for rail workers. So it’s a great deal.”
Amtrack on Wednesday canceled some of its long-distance routes in preparation for possible freight railroad service interruption later this week. The railroads have already started to curtail shipments of hazardous materials and have announced plans to stop hauling refrigerated products ahead of Friday’s strike deadline.
Timmons said businesses that rely on railroads to deliver their goods should start planning for supply chain interruptions.
“You mentioned all kinds of commodities that move by rail. Here is one to think about: chlorine. We have already got members… reporting that they are having halts to shipments,” he said. “One of those is chlorine. You cannot risk the fact that chlorine might be sitting out there unattended. What does that mean for drinking water all across this country? Do we want boil alerts everywhere across the country like we see in Flint, Michigan and down in Jackson, Mississippi?”
“Perhaps we are getting inflation under control at this point, so we’re going to now turn around and do it all over again and do it to ourselves? That does not make any sense,” Timmons added.
Timmons praised President Biden as the “most pro-union president in my lifetime” and called on the Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) to “flex a little muscle” to get the deal done.
If a deal is not reached by the deadline, Congress is expected to get involved to stop any shutdown. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that she is now engaged with the White House and unions in an effort to avoid a strike, adding that she would rather see a negotiated settlement than action from Congress.
“Let’s get this done,” Timmons said. “Let’s make sure that commerce in the United States isn’t disrupted because of disagreement that has already been negotiated by the Presidential Emergency Board.”
Four unions remain holdouts on the deal put forth by the Presidential Emergency Board. Another eight rail unions have agreed to the plan.