Looming Freight Rail Strike Could Cripple U.S. Supply Chains

A looming freight rail strike could cripple U.S. supply chains if an agreement isn’t reached by Friday.


A looming freight rail strike could cripple U.S. supply chains if labor unions, management, and the Biden administration can’t come to a settlement by 12:01 am Friday morning.

  • A rail shutdown could cost the U.S. economy $2 billion per day and freeze almost 30% of U.S. cargo shipments. A strike would have repercussions in the energy, agriculture, manufacturing, and retail sectors and lead to store shortages and price hikes.
  • Per AP News, “Suzanne Clark, the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said Monday that “a national rail strike would be an economic disaster — freezing the flow of goods, emptying shelves, shuttering workplaces and raising prices for families and businesses alike.”
  • Twelve unions representing 115,000 workers need to conclude deals and have members vote on approval. Nine have agreed to tentative deals, three are still bargaining, and one – the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers – voted to reject a tentative deal.
  • The railroad unions cannot legally strike until 12:01 am Friday morning when a legally mandated “cooling-off” period ends under the Railway Labor Act that governs railroad contract talks.
  • Some railroad shipments of fuel to the U.S. Northeast have already been cancelled and the region could soon face energy shortages. Some railroads are halting crop shipments causing disruptions that “could add to already high inflation.”
  • Republicans in Congress have introduced legislation to force both sides to accept contract recommendations from a Biden-appointed nonpartisan panel should railroads and unions not be able to reach a deal by Friday.
  • The Biden White House has been heavily involved in the negotiation and has begun to develop alternative forms of transportation – trucks, ships, and planes – to keep essential goods moving in the event of a rail shutdown.


reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • CNN reported Labor Secretary Marty Walsh met with railroad and union officials on Wednesday to try and hammer out a deal and President Biden personally called major players last week in an attempt to avert the strike.
  • POLITICO noted the political implications of an economically catastrophic strike two months before Election Day has left every actor in the dispute with “maximum leverage” and forces Democrats to choose between standing by their labor allies or selling them out to avert a strike.
  • The Washington Post covered the sticking point in negotiations: some major railroads’ points-based attendance policies that penalize workers, including possible termination, for taking time off without pay for events like doctors’ visits or family emergencies.



  • National Review’s Jim Geraghty called the seemingly imminent freight rail strike “the biggest looming crisis you’ve heard almost nothing about.” Geraghty noted the consequences of the dispute are already being felt as railroads cancel routes and others prepare for a shutdown.
  • Breitbart noted the Biden administration’s fingerprints are all over the railroad union negotiations. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg have both been involved in mediating the dispute.
  • Fox News reported on the strike’s consequences for Amtrak. Amtrak cancelled all long-distance trains beginning Thursday and will only operate trains with enough time to reach their destination before a lockout would be allowed to begin after midnight Friday.


Return to Freespoke Freespoke.com

© Dominic Moore, 2022