DES MOINES – The four members of the US House of Representatives in Iowa voted on Wednesday to pass legislation aimed at preventing a possible strike by railroad workers.
The legislation is the result of a compromise between rail companies and a majority of unions representing rail workers, the Associated Press reported. A strike was still possible because some unions rejected the proposed agreement.
The vote in the House of Representatives was 290-137, with 79 Republicans joining the majority Democrats in support of the bill and eight Democrats joining the majority Republicans who opposed it. The bill will next go to the US Senate.
All four Iowa representatives — Republicans Ashley Hinson, Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Randy Feenstra, and Democrat Cindy Axne — were among those who voted in favor of the bill.
Iowa Republicans, who voted in favor of 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 that it is not Congress’ duty to save the President or interfere in labor-management negotiations, rail travel is essential to farmers and businesses across Iowa. My vote on this bill was in support of Iowans — not President Biden, who has shown an astounding lack of leadership on the issue,” Miller-Meeks said in a statement aired by her spokeswoman.
U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, speaks on Capitol Hill May 19, 2021 in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
In a statement declaring her vote for the legislation, Hinson slammed Biden for the lack of agreement between business and workers and for inflation.
“I supported legislation to avert this latest Biden disaster and will continue to work to solve the challenges we face, ensuring workers in every industry have fair wages and benefits, and getting our economy running again ‘ Hinson explained.
The legislation provides for 24 percent pay increases and $5,000 in bonuses retroactive to 2020, as well as one additional day of paid vacation. Most, but not all, rail workers’ unions agreed to this agreement.
US Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, arrives Nov. 14 to meet behind closed doors with fellow Republicans as Republicans hold their Leader Candidates Forum in Washington. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)
Axne, who is completing her term after losing her re-election bid, voted in favor of the main legislation and a companion piece that would also require rail companies to offer seven days of paid sick leave a year. This bill passed by a majority of the party line, 221 to 207, with only three Republicans voting in favour. None of the Republicans in Iowa supported the call for paid sick leave.
“All workers deserve basic rights like paid sick leave, which are a must for these unionized workers. I am pleased to vote to provide sick leave to the men and women who work in the railroad industry and to keep Iowa’s economy thriving,” Axne said in a statement.
On to the Senate
Republican US Senator Chuck Grassley said he plans to vote for the main proposal but does not support the required paid sick leave. On a conference call Wednesday, Grassley told Iowa reporters he supported the compromise reached between the railroads and workers and that the railroad companies had assured him workers could continue to negotiate paid sick leave.
Unlike the members of the Iowa House who blew up Biden, Grassley said it was “very helpful” that the White House was involved in negotiations.
“We know that agricultural producers in Iowa and across the country depend heavily on rail to move inputs and move grain out of our state. And it affects other agricultural products as well,” Grassley said.
US Senator Joni Ernst’s spokeswoman said Ernst did not believe Biden’s administration should “pass the buck to Congress” and did not say how Ernst planned to vote.
“[Ernst]will review any legislation that comes before the Senate and will continue to hear from Iowans on how best to support workers, businesses and families,” the spokeswoman said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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