Congress is likely to intervene to prevent a potentially devastating rail strike that would hamper shipments of coal and other commodities.

President Joe Biden has asked Congress to impose a compromise labor agreement and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling a vote this week.

The proposal would immediately resolve an impasse between freight railroads and the unions over paid sick leave that threatened a rail stoppage starting Dec. 9. The railroads and unions had previously come to an agreement to avoid a strike on Sept. 15, after 20 straight hours of negotiations.

The main sticking points of the negotiations are related to the demanding schedules that make it hard for rail workers to take time off.

The rail unions have been pushing for the railroads to add paid sick time for workers. Railroads have refused to consider this because they don’t want to spend more on these deals than what they have already offered, and the railroads say the unions have agreed over the decades to forgo paid sick time in favor of higher wages and strong short-term disability benefits.

Workers say their jobs have become significantly more demanding because the railroads have eliminated nearly one-third of their jobs over the past six years as they overhauled their operations. As we’ve reported, electric utilities have also felt the effects of rail employee shortages, with delayed coal shipments.

The Biden Administration’s proposed agreement has faced pushback from Labor; it was ultimately voted down by four of the 12 unions that represent about 115,000 workers at the freight railroads.

Congress has previously intervened 18 times in rail strike disputes, the last time in 1992, sending the case to arbitration.

This article includes reporting from The Associated Press.

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