Lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday by a margin of 221-207 to pass a concurrent resolution adding seven days of paid sick leave to a White House-brokered contract that over half of the nation’s unionized rail workforce had rejected but that President Joe Biden urged Congress to force through to prevent a nationwide rail strike next month.
Only three Republicans joined 218 Democrats to approve the paid sick leave measure. Three Republicans and one Democrat abstained.
Just minutes earlier, 79 Republicans joined 211 Democrats to pass a strike-averting resolution that would impose Biden’s heavily criticized tentative agreement, which in its original form does not guarantee any paid sick leave. Five Republicans did not vote.
Biden—a self-described “pro-labor president”—has been condemned by rail workers and progressive lawmakers and advocacy groups for pressuring Congress to use its authority under the Railway Labor Act of 1926 to ram through his deal to preempt a looming strike.
Prior to the intervention of Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), who submitted an amendment to add seven days of paid sick leave to the existing settlement on Tuesday night, progressives feared that House lawmakers would advance the White House-brokered pact without trying to improve it.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said Wednesday in a statement that she “was proud to work alongside Rep. Bowman to push for an amendment to a rail deal that would guarantee seven days of paid leave to railroad workers.” Omar thanked House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and the chamber’s leadership for bringing the amendment to the floor.
“Railroad corporations are raking in record profits—over $20 billion last year alone,” said Omar. “Meanwhile, their workers do not even have the basic protections of a single day of paid or unpaid sick time. In the face of these record profits, railroad workers have made a simple, dignified request for the basic protections of paid leave.”
Both the strike-averting resolution and the concurrent resolution adding seven days of paid sick leave to Biden’s deal now head to the Senate.
In a joint statement released in the wake of the House votes, 12 members of the upper chamber—including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)—thanked Biden and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh “for their hard work in negotiating a tentative agreement that is better than the disastrous proposal put forward by the rail industry.”
Originally published at Commondreams.org.