Fears of a rail strike in the US

The strike didn’t legally begin until midnight on Thursday evening, September 15, but it was time for panic in America as the railroad shutdown loomed. Amtrak, the mass transit company, canceled long-haul routes such as Seattle-Los Angeles as of Thursday, fearing its customers would be stranded in rural areas.

Some shipments of chemicals like ammonia and fertilizer to farmers have been stopped so they don’t have to leave these hazardous materials unattended. Oil from the plains of Canada or the Dakotas is also under threat.

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Ten of the twelve unions representing 49,000 workers have signed an agreement with employers, but the base of one of them has rejected it. After all, the two drivers’ unions, which are supposed to carry the voice of 60,000 people, have not reached any compromise after three years of negotiations. Absence of a full agreement by Thursday evening could push the entire sector into strike action.

“National Disaster”

A conflict of this magnitude would be unprecedented since 1992 and would be a disappointment for Joe Biden’s administration as the November 8 midterm elections loom. The shutdown of the railways will again stifle the economy, while the bottlenecks, especially at the ports, are beginning to be absorbed – only a dozen container ships are ready in Los Angeles, against a hundred in January.

According to the Association of American Railroads, the strike costs $2 billion (€2 billion) a day, or 3% of GDP.

Smaller than passenger transport, rail plays an important role in the US economy: it represents an important link in the intermodal transport of containers (sea, rail, truck) and in agriculture, petroleum and chemical products. In the countryside, some 7,000 long-distance convoys, sometimes with more than a hundred wagons and four locomotives, stretched from Los Angeles to Chicago or Savannah (Georgia) to Nashville (Tennessee). Transportation is handled by seven major private companies such as CSX, Union Pacific and PNSF, 22 regional and nearly 600 local.

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A strike costs $2 billion (€2 billion) a day, or 3% of GDP, according to the Association of American Railroads. The American Chamber of Commerce regrets the advance “National Disaster”, The Petroleum Producers Association fears disruption “Disaster”.

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