WASHINGTON, DC, US — Legislation to implement the agreement between rail companies and labor unions is awaiting President Biden’s signature after US Senate approval on Dec. 1.

The legislation averts a rail strike that Biden said would have triggered a recession. The Senate did not approve the House proposal that would have added seven days of sick leave to the agreement.

The September agreement was brokered by the Biden administration with the rail labor unions and the operators. Eight of the 12 unions had ratified the agreement.

The unions voting down the agreement took issue with the level of the pay increase given current inflation levels as well as a failure to address demands to make work schedules more flexible.

US agriculture groups had urged Congress to take action to avoid a service disruption that they say would cripple the industry.

“NAMA thanks the Biden administration and Congress for acting to prevent a rail shutdown,” said Jane DeMarchi, president of the North American Millers’ Association. “While we wish it had not come down to congressional action and that the two sides could have come to an agreement earlier, we are relieved that the milling supply chain — and ultimately, consumers — will not face devastating and costly disruptions.”

America’s railways move about one-quarter of all US grain, and most grain products, such as soybean oil and meal, dried distillers’ grains and other byproducts used in the production of animal feed and pet food.

“No one empathizes with the struggles of maintaining a committed workforce like the US animal food industry but slowing or stopping the transport of goods via rail threatens the livelihoods of those hardworking Americans well beyond our nation’s tracks,” said Constance Cullman, president and chief executive officer of the American Feed Industry Association. “We thank Congress and the Biden administration for their leadership in brokering a deal that keeps all trains running on time for the greater good of America and the food and agricultural community.”