EASTON, Pa. - To avert a looming rail shut down by Dec. 9 the House has moved to pass the tentative rail agreement on Wednesday with a vote of 290 to 137, which will make a strike illegal.
"The Congress has done this about 18 times. The last time Congress ended the rail strike was 1992 and interestingly, then Senator Joe Biden voted against the bill," said John Kincaid, Director of the Meyner Center at Lafayette College.
However, on Monday, now-President Joe Biden called on Congress to intervene, much to the dismay of the unions.
"If they can pass a bill to put us back to work, then they can also pass a bill that makes sure that we have basic protections when we need it most and when we're most vulnerable," said Peter Kennedy with BMWED Railroad Workers Union.
The original tentative agreement reached in September offers a nearly 25% raise. However, the major sticking point has been sick leave. Currently, workers do not have any.
On Wednesday, the House also passed a resolution that would provide seven days of paid sick leave. Only three Republicans voted to support the sick leave resolution, one of them being Pennsylvania Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick.
"A railroad strike would have a devastating impact on the economy and that would have much more political blowback," Kincaid said.
Kincaid says the federal government has a long history of regulating the railroad industry.
"The first major federal regulatory agency was the Interstate Commerce Commission, created in 1886 precisely to regulate the railroads," Kincaid said.
That led the way to the Railway Labor Act of 1926, which gives Congress the right to intervene with railroad's collective bargaining, as to not interrupt interstate commerce.
"Normally, neither Congress nor the President can intervene, but that's usually because normally a strike doesn't have that much of an impact on the economy," Kincaid said.
The resolutions now move to the Senate, where it's unclear if either has enough support, especially the sick leave portion.