As Freight Rail Workers Threaten to Strike, Amtrak Cancels 3 Long-Distance Routes From Chicago – NBC Chicago

As Freight Rail Workers Threaten to Strike, Amtrak Cancels 3 Long-Distance Routes From Chicago – NBC Chicago

In a move to prevent train passengers from being stranded, Amtrak on Monday said that it would pre-emptively cancel three long-distance train routes as an impending freight rail worker strike threatens to disrupt both train travelers and consumers.

According to a report from NBC News, freight workers are threatening to strike as early as Friday for reasons including higher pay, more generous paid leave, and a renegotiation of strict attendance policies that makes it difficult to take time off.

While Amtrak is not part of the dispute, the train operator says a rail worker strike “could significantly impact” its passenger service since it operates nearly all of its 21,000 route miles on tracks that are owned, maintained and dispatched by freight railroads.

According to Amtrak, the affected routes are California Zephyr, Empire Builder, Southwest Chief, which all originate in Chicago.

However, train passengers may not be the only ones impacted by a strike.

Due to the volume of products carried and moved by rail, supply chains for various items could be affected. According to the head of the United States Chamber of Commerce, a rail worker strike could further affect economic and supply chain issues by impacting the flow of goods and raise already inflated prices.

“A shutdown of the nation’s rail service would have enormous national consequences,” the Chamber said on Monday, Reuters reports.

A White House official told The Associated Press that President Joe Biden and members of his Cabinet are in touch with both sides in hopes of preventing a strike, and that a number of trade groups representing railroad shippers are urging lawmakers to be prepared to block a strike. 

Last week, coalition of 31 agricultural groups sent a letter to Congress, and the Fertilizer Institute trade group joined the chorus of concerned shippers Saturday because shipments of ammonia and other fertilizers will be delayed.

“Supply chains are already strained and there is currently zero elasticity in rail transportation,” FIT group President and CEO Corey Rosenbusch said. “This situation will get exponentially worse every day there is no resolution.” According to Rosenbusch, more than half of all fertilizer is hauled by railroads.

Additionally, more than 75% of all finished vehicles are taken from factories to dealerships by train, and countless other products move by rail.

The Association of American Railroads estimates shutting down the railroads would cost the economy $2 billion dollars a day.

According to a report from the Chicago Tribune, Metra has not made changes to its service, but that a strike could change that. Metra did not immediately respond to a comment request from NBC 5.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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