Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) on Wednesday issued the following joint statement after the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation averting a rail strike and guaranteeing paid sick leave for rail workers:
“We thank President Biden and Labor Secretary Walsh for their hard work in negotiating a tentative agreement that is better than the disastrous proposal put forward by the rail industry. But Congress can and must make this agreement better.
“For nearly three years our nation’s rail workers have been fighting on the front lines of the pandemic. They have kept our trains on the track even while facing unprecedented challenges.
“Supply chain problems coupled with increased consumer spending and online shopping habits have put the freight rail industry under incredible strain. And as a result train crews have been working around the clock often with inflexible and unpredictable work schedules to transport everything from food and fuel to medical supplies and cleaning products.
“But even as the need for worker protections and workplace flexibility have grown, railroad companies provide zero days of paid sick leave to their workers. What this means is that if a rail worker comes down with COVID, the flu or some other illness and calls in sick, that worker will not only receive no pay, but will be penalized and, in some cases, fired. That is absolutely unacceptable. During the first three quarters of this year, the rail industry made a record-breaking $21.2 billion in profits. Guaranteeing 7 paid sick days to rail workers would only cost the industry $321 million a year – less than 2 percent of their total profits. Please do not tell us that the rail industry cannot afford to guarantee paid sick days to their workers.
“We commend the House for addressing this outrageous situation and guaranteeing paid sick days to every rail worker in America. We urge the Senate to quickly take up the House-passed language for a roll call vote and urge our colleagues to support these workers. We look forward to bipartisan support.”