Unions and management reached a tentative deal early Thursday, averting a freight railroad strike that had threatened to cripple US supply chains and push prices higher for many goods.
The deal with unions representing more than 50,000 engineers and conductors was announced just after 5 a.m. ET in a statement from the White House, which called it "an important win for our economy and the American people.
It came after 20 hours of talks between the unions' leadership and the railroads' labor negotiators hosted by Labor Secretary Marty Walsh. They began their meeting Wednesday morning with the clock ticking down to a strike that had been set to start at 12:01 am ET on Friday.
President Joe Biden called in personally to talk to negotiators around 9 pm ET Wednesday, according to a person familiar with negotiations. Biden stressed that catastrophic harm could come to families, businesses and communities if the rail system shut down.
The agreement does not mean the threat of a strike has gone away entirely. The deal needs to be ratified by union members. But it's good news for a wide range of businesses that depend upon the freight railroads to continue to operate, and for the wider US economy. About 30% of the nation's freight moves by rail.