11:20 a.m. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, good morning everyone. As you can guess, I’m very pleased to announce an interim working agreement between — that has been reached between the railroad workers and the railway companies. This agreement is a great victory for America and for both, in my opinion.
I want to thank the chief negotiators and the laboratory — of the labor movement — the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen; International Association of Sheet Metal Workers and Airline, Railway and Transport Workers; and the other unions involved.
And it is a victory for tens of thousands of railway workers and for their dignity and the dignity of their work. It is an acknowledgment of that.
During those early dark and uncertain days of the pandemic, they showed up for every American to carry on. They have worked tirelessly during the pandemic to ensure that families and communities received the deliveries they needed during those difficult few years.
And thanks to the labor agreement, these railway workers will receive better pay – a 24% pay increase over the next five years, better working conditions, peace of mind around their health care by capping the cost that workers will have to pay.
And it’s about the right to see a doctor or to stay healthy and to make sure that you’re able to have the care that you can afford. It’s all part of this deal. They have earned and deserve these benefits.
And that’s a lot for both parties, in my opinion. The agreement is also a victory for the railway companies.
And I want to thank the main railroad negotiators — the National Railroad Labor Conference and our major railroads. These companies have also played a vital role in keeping America moving during the pandemic. And that’s not hyperbole, it’s fact.
Thanks to this agreement, the railway companies will be able to retain and recruit workers. They will be able to continue to function effectively as a vital part of our economy. They really are the backbone of the economy. I have a visual image of the rails being the backbone. I mean, literally, the backbone of the economy.
So I thank the unions and the railroads for negotiating in good faith—they’ve been negotiating for 20 hours straight—and—and sticking to it, especially in the last few days.
In fact, the negotiators here today, I don’t think they’ve gone to bed yet — (laughs) — so I don’t want to keep this up for very long, and they have to get up, that’s — plus.
Together, we have reached a deal — you have reached an agreement that will keep our critical rail system running and prevent disruption to our economy.
And I’m grateful – thankful to the members of the administration who worked tirelessly on both sides to help get this done.
I especially want to thank Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh — a card-holding union member and the union’s first secretary of labor in decades — for his tireless, 24-hour work. (Applause.)
This agreement is validation — validation of what I have always believed: unions and management can work together — can work together for the benefit of all.
They are traveling now. A number of them are in place. But I want to thank Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack who have been deeply involved, as well as – I want to thank Labor Undersecretary Julie Su; National Economic Council Director Brian Deese; and the national deputy [Economic Council] Director of Labor, Celeste Drake, for this commitment and hard work.
To the American people: This agreement can avoid the significant damage that any shutdown would have caused. Our nation’s rail system is the backbone of our supply chain.
Everything you rely on – and it’s hard to realize – everything from clean water to food, to gas, to everyday – I mean, to liquefied natural gas, to everything – every good that you need seems to be on a rail, being delivered to where it needs to go.
With unemployment still near record highs and signs of progress in cutting costs, this agreement allows us to continue to build a better America with an economy that really works for workers and their families.
Today is a victory – and I say this sincerely – a victory for America.
So I want to thank all of you for doing this, both companies and unions. Thanks thanks thanks.
And may God protect our troops. Thanks a lot. (Applause.)
Q Mr. Speaker, grocery store prices have gone up more than 13%. What do you say to struggling Americans?
THE PRESIDENT: The rail is moving, and it’s not going to rise.
11:24 a.m. EDT