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Railroad Worker Strike

Labor and management have to negotiate.

Listening to people talk about topics that they know “just a tiny bit about” is always interesting. Since I’m riding a commuter train into Seattle this morning, I overheard a station manager talking about how the president is screwing with the unions.

I’m definitely not a labor expert, but here are a few items of interest. First of all, I’ve followed railroad issues more closely than most because my father was a railroad engineer on the Illinois Central Railroad back in the day. He was a member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen union.

I was a teenager when my dad came home and announced, “It looks like we are going to strike.” My ears perked up at that announcement. Well, they never did strike. What I recall is that the then-president, either Kennedy or Johnson, invoked the Taft-Hartley Act, which forces both management and labor back to the bargaining table — I think for 90 days (sometimes called a “90-day cooling off period”).

The station manager in Seattle was talking about the dictatorial powers that President Biden was using, which I’ll say were authorized by Congress in the above act. From Wikipedia there is this: “In addition to its other controls of labor disputes, the Taft-Hartley Act allowed the president to appoint a board of inquiry to investigate labor disputes in instances in which a strike might endanger the public’s health or safety.”

Yes, the president has special powers vested in him by Congress to take action to protect our nation’s economic welfare.

As of this writing, it appears a strike has been averted for now via negotiations and not by fiat.
Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.