WASHINGTON, DC, US — US President Joe Biden signed legislation on Dec. 2 that averts a rail strike that would have crippled the economy.

“The bill I’m about to sign ends a difficult rail dispute and helps our nation avoid what, without a doubt, would have been an economic catastrophe at a very bad time in the calendar,” Biden said before signing the bill.

The Biden administration helped in negotiations between the rail labor unions and operators, resulting in a tentative agreement in September. 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.

The workers and companies had until Dec. 9 to reach an agreement before they vowed to strike.

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

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.