Why Food Groups Want Congress To Intervene In December Rail Strike

Supply chain disruptions that started during the coronavirus pandemic and were exacerbated by the Russian War in Ukraine helped lead to high inflation in 2022, according to Reuters. But as U.S. businesses attempt to recover from more than two years of supply chain bottlenecks and other issues, another potential supply chain disruptor has been looming on the horizon. As The New York Times observed in September, the specter of a railroad strike could be disastrous, given that the railway system moves much of the nation's freight. 

Farm crops, in particular, are regularly shipped via the rails. Just last year, over 150 million tons of grain were transported by railway, and an average of over 700,000 carloads of corn are transported annually, per the American Association of Railroads. CNBC noted that a rail strike could begin as soon as December 9, 2022, if the industry's unions fail to ratify new labor agreements. U.S. food industry organizations, which count on railroads for food shipments, have predictably been up in arms, and in fact, have called on Congress to intervene before a strike begins, Food Business News reports.

President Joe Biden and Congress are aware of the looming railroad strike

Recently, over 400 U.S. business groups in the food industry jointly penned a letter to Congress, asking that the nation's political leaders step in to avert a looming railroad strike that could negatively impact the U.S. economy during the holiday season (an estimated $2 billion per day loss for the economy), according to Food Business News. The Food Industry Association and the North American Meat Institute were among the many groups that reached out to top politicians on both sides of the aisle to help avoid the upcoming strike. Apparently, President Joe Biden and Congressional leadership read the letter. 

CNN reported earlier today that the president had asked Congress to prevent over 100,000 railroad union workers from striking. The news predictably has not gone over well with union members, who have long been seeking better working conditions. "This action prevents us from reaching the end of our process, takes away the strength and ability that we have to force bargaining or force the railroads to...do the right thing," President of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, Michael Baldwin told the outlet. A potential strike has been possible for several months, notes Time, after years of unsuccessful contract talks between unions and major railroad passenger and freight carriers like Amtrak.