EDITORIAL: Stop pending train strike in tracks

Dec. 1—Amid stubbornly high inflation, a national freight railroad strike is the last thing the nation needs.

Supply chain disruptions that have created shortages of goods, driving up their prices, already are a major inflation driver. A railroad strike likely would make the situation even worse.

President Joe Biden is on the mark in calling on Congress to impose a tentative settlement that he brokered in September. Negotiators for all of the railroad unions and management approved that settlement, but four of the 12 unions' rank and file say they will not ratify it by the Dec. 9 deadline.

The tentative agreement has been approved by eight unions, but they also would honor picket lines of the four unions that have rejected the deal. In all, more than 100,000 railroad employees would not report for work.

Although the tentative deal would increase worker pay by up to 24% over four years, it does not address sick leave and the railroads' illness policies, the key issue cited by the four unions. Several companies have said that they would negotiate on that issue after the contract is ratified, but the unions know that their leverage is in the ability to shut down rail operations.

Major rail strikes are rare, but that is not because the railroads and unions most often agree on contracts. It is because Congress often has done what Biden now asks, imposing government-brokered agreements as law 18 times in the past 60 years.

The public interest requires Congress to do so again.