11:20 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, good morning, everyone. As you might guess, I am very pleased to announce a tentative labor agreement between — that has been reached between the railway workers and the railway companies. This agreement is a big win for America and for both, in my view.
I want to thank the lead negotiators and the lab- — from the labor movement — the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and the Trainmen; International Association of Sheet Metal and Air and Rail and Transportation Workers union; and the other labor unions engaged.
And this is a win for tens of thousands of rail workers and for their dignity and the dignity of their work. It’s a recognition of that.
During these early, dark, uncertain days of the pandemic, they showed up so every American could keep going. They worked tirelessly through the pandemic to ensure that families and communities got the deliveries they needed during these difficult few years.
And because of the labor agreement, those rail workers will get better pay — a 24 percent wage increase over the next five years, improved working conditions, peace of mind around their healthcare by capping the cost that workers will have to pay.
And it’s about the right to go to a doctor or stay healthy and make sure you’re able to have the care you can afford. It’s all part of this agreement. They earned and deserve these benefits.
And this is a great deal for both sides, in my view. The agreement is also a victory for railway companies.
And I want to thank the lead negotiators from the Railway — the National Railway Labor Conference and our major rail companies. These companies also played a critical role in keeping America moving during the pandemic. And that’s not hyperbole, it’s a fact.
With this agreement, railroad companies will be able to retain and recruit workers. They’ll be able to continue to operate effectively as a vital piece of our economy. They’re really the backbone of the economy. I have a visual image of rails being the backbone. I mean, literally, the backbone of the economy.
So I thank the unions and the rail companies for negotiating in good faith — they’ve been up for 20 straight hours through that negotiation — and — and for sticking with it, especially over the last few days.
In fact, the negotiators here today, I don’t think they’ve been to bed yet — (laughter) — so I don’t want to keep this very long, and they having to stand is a — besides.
Together, we reached an agreement — you reached an agreement that will keep our critical rail system working and avoid disruptions of our economy.
And I’m grateful — grateful for the members of the administration who worked tirelessly on both sides to help get this done.
I especially want to thank Labor Secretary Marty Walsh — a card-carrying union member and the first union Labor Secretary in decades — for his tireless, around-the-clock work. (Applause.)
This agreement is validation — validation of what I’ve always believed: Unions and management can work together — can work together for the benefit of everyone.
They’re traveling now. A number of them are up. But I want to thank Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack who were deeply involved, along with — I want to thank Deputy Labor Secretary Julie Su; Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese; and the Deputy National [Economic Council] Director of Labor, Celeste Drake, for this commitment and hard work.
To the American people: This agreement can avert the significant damage that any shutdown would have brought. Our nation’s rail system is the backbone of our supply chain.
Everything you rely on — and it’s hard to realize this — everything from clean water, to food, to gas, to everyday — I mean, liquified natural gas, to everything — every good that you need seems to be on a rail, getting delivered to where it needs to go.
With unemployment still near record lows and signs of progress in lowering costs, this agreement allows us to continue to rebuild a better America with an economy that truly works for working people and their families.
Today is a win — and I mean it sincerely — a win for America.
So I want to thank you all for getting this done, both business and labor. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
And may God protect our troops. Thank you so much. (Applause.)
Q Mr. President, grocery prices are up over 13 percent. What do you tell struggling Americans?
THE PRESIDENT: Rail is moving, and it’s not going to go up.
11:24 A.M. EDT