Congressional Letter Regarding the Rail Labor Dispute
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS:
On behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest business federation
representing the interests of more than three million businesses and organizations of every size,
sector, and region, I am writing to bring your attention to a labor dispute that could lead to the
massive shutdown of our nation’s rail system.
As you may know, President Obama established an Emergency Board on October 6,
2011 charged with investigating a labor dispute between various railroads and a coalition of rail
unions. On November 5, 2011, the Emergency Board issued a report containing
recommendations to resolve the dispute. Under the terms of the Railway Labor Act, if the
dispute is not resolved by December 6, 2011, the parties will be free to engage in “self-help,”
including strikes or lockouts.
In any labor dispute, it is highly desirable that a resolution be reached by agreement of
the parties to the dispute. Indeed, it is our understanding that the employers and the vast
majority of the labor unions in this particular dispute have already reached agreement. It is our
strong hope that the employers and remaining unions will be able to reach agreement by the
December 6 deadline.
However, should an agreement not be reached, the exercise of self-help could cause
massive disruptions in our economy at a time when we can least afford it. A rail strike would
severely disrupt commerce across the country, wreak havoc on supply chains, inhibit the export
of U.S. goods, and even disable intercity and commuter rail service. Altogether, these
disruptions would cost the U.S. economy up to $2 billion per day.
For these reasons, while we strongly hope that the parties will be able to reach agreement
among themselves, we urge you to be prepared to act to consider the recommendations of the
Presidential Emergency Board if necessary to avert a shutdown of our nation’s rail system.
R. Bruce Josten