December 2, 2022

Whitehouse Calls for Paid Sick Leave for Rail Workers

After House passes legislation to avert national rail strike, Whitehouse calls for Senate to support rail workers while maintaining railway operations

Washington, D.C. – As the Senate takes up legislation to avert a nationwide freight rail shutdown that would have devastating economic effects, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today called on the Senate to support rail workers and pass legislation providing seven days of paid sick leave.

“As railroad companies rack up record profits, the frontline workers who keep the trains running are working around the clock without paid sick leave.  It’s inexcusable that 100,000 Americans working for billion-dollar corporations can be fired if they don’t show up sick for work,” said Whitehouse.  “I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting the House-passed resolution guaranteeing seven days of paid sick leave.”

During the first nine months of 2022, the railroad industry made a record-breaking $21.2 billion in profits.  Meanwhile, the rail carriers estimate that providing seven paid days of sick leave to their employees would only cost $321 million per year—less than 2 percent of those profits.

Congress has the authority to intervene in the current impasse between railways and labor unions under the Railway Labor Act.  On Monday, President Biden called on Congress to exercise that authority to prevent a catastrophic rail stoppage that would grind the U.S. economy to a halt.    

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation adding paid sick leave to the final agreement.  The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on that today.

Senator Whitehouse is a longtime champion of workers’ rights and paid sick leave.  Last year he joined Senator Murray to re-introduce the Healthy Families Act, a measure he has sponsored every Congress since 2011.  The bill would require private sector companies with more than fifteen employees to allow workers to accrue up to seven days of paid sick leave.  

Meaghan McCabe,(401) 453-5294

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Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921