The looming threat of a rail strike has been over everyone’s heads over the last number of weeks, and it doesn’t seem like it will go anywhere soon. Congress is now being pressured to step in to end the rail strike threat. With a walkout scheduled for as early as next week, time is ticking away.
Disruptions to the supply chain will begin in days, so the unions and government are running out of time to solve this rail strike. With the holiday season looming, it could be devastating for both passengers and businesses that use the system. The government is debating whether it will or won’t intervene in the negotiations between the rail employees and the major freight railroads. A decision will be made on December 9th.
But something that doesn’t need to be debated is the impact this rail strike will have on the American economy. If the trains stop running, over 700,000 American employees could be out of work in the first two weeks, and it would cost the economy 2 billion a day, an amount that will surely cripple it given the volatile state it is in at the moment.
The rail system is spread over the entirety of the US and carries a range of cargo from many different sectors, and the amount it carries daily is equivalent to 467,000 truckloads. If a strike does happen, these products and materials may not be shipped as there is also a shortage of truck drivers nationwide, so there is no one to bridge the shipping gap in the interim.
Also, American ports that are just recovering will no doubt be hit with significant disruptions from a rail strike, as over 30% of cargo shipments are moved across the country by rail.
Businesses are still recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, so something like this, especially during the holiday season, which is a busy time for most businesses, would be catastrophic. With a lack of goods, everyday items would continue to rise as inflation is nearly at its highest in forty years.
After the pandemic, spending time with family and loved ones is something everyone values more than before. Having a rail strike and putting obstacles in people’s way to seeing their nearest and dearest during the holidays will cause many citizens to be angry and upset. Over seven million passengers use the rail network daily, which would affect many businesses once again.
All these reasons show how important the rail system is to keeping America working like clockwork. Its effect on the economy is why the government has the Railway Labour Act, which gives them the power to step in if needs be and avert a strike.
While it is crucial for employees to be paid correctly and feel appreciated by their employers, a rail strike cannot happen if it will bring down the American economy. Congress must step in and ensure this doesn’t happen by mediating between the two sides.