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Iowa’s delegation supports U.S. House bill to avert railroad strike
All 4 House members said yes to the main deal, but Republicans opposed an additional requirement for paid sick leave for railroad workers
DES MOINES — Iowa’s four U.S. House members voted Wednesday to approve legislation designed to avert a potential strike by railroad workers.
The legislation is the result of a compromise reached by railroad companies and a majority of the unions that represent rail workers, the Associated Press reported. A strike was still possible because some unions rejected the proposed agreement.
⧉ Related article: Congress acts urgently to avert rail strike next week
The House vote was 290-137, with 79 Republicans joining the majority of Democrats in supporting the bill, and eight Democrats joining the majority of Republicans who opposed it. The bill next moves to the U.S. Senate.
All four of Iowa’s representatives — Republicans Ashley Hinson, Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Randy Feenstra, and Democrat Cindy Axne — were among those who voted for the bill.
The Iowa Republicans who voted for the proposal did so while also slamming President Joe Biden, the Democratic president who may be up for re-election in two years.
“While I firmly believe it is not the duty of Congress to bail out the President, or intervene in employer-worker negotiations, rail transport is essential for farmers and businesses across Iowa. My vote on this bill was to support Iowans — not President Biden, who has shown a stunning lack of leadership on this issue,” Miller-Meeks said in a statement sent by her spokeswoman.
In a statement explaining her vote in support of the legislation, Hinson criticized Biden for the lack of an agreement between the companies and workers, and for inflation.
“I supported legislation to avert this latest Biden catastrophe, and will continue working to solve the challenges we’re facing, ensure workers in all industries have fair wages and benefits, and get our economy working for everyone again,” Hinson stated.
The legislation provides for 24 percent raises and $5,000 in bonuses retroactive to 2020 along with one additional paid leave day. That deal was agreed to by most, but not all, of the unions representing rail workers.
Axne, who is completing her term after losing her re-election bid, voted for the main legislation and a companion piece, which also would require the railroad companies to offer seven days of paid sick leave per year. That bill passed on a mostly party-line 221-207 vote, with only three Republicans voting in favor. None of Iowa’s Republicans supported the paid sick leave requirement.
“All workers deserve basic rights like paid sick days, which are a must for these union workers. I am happy to vote to provide sick leave for the men and women who work in the railroad industry and keep Iowa’s economy moving,” Axne said in a statement.
On to the Senate
Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley said he plans to vote for the main proposal, but does not support the required paid sick days. On a conference call Wednesday, Grassley told Iowa reporters he supports the compromise reached between the railroads and workers, and that railroad companies have assured him workers can continue to negotiate over paid sick days.
Unlike the Iowa House members who blasted Biden, Grassley said it was “very helpful” that the White House has been involved with negotiations.
“We know that ag producers in Iowa and across the country depend a great deal on rail to move inputs to move grain out of our state. And it involves other agricultural products as well,” Grassley said.
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst’s spokeswoman said Ernst does not believe Biden’s administration should be “passing the buck off to Congress,” and did not say how Ernst plans to vote.
“(Ernst) will review any legislation that comes before the Senate and continue to hear from Iowans on how to best support workers, businesses, and families,” the spokeswoman said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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