The rail strike that almost cost the U.S. billions

By: Brogan Frey 

Image taken from

Although a rail strike isn’t something that most deem significant, it can actually have a crippling effect on a country’s economy. At the beginning of December, last year, the United States was on the verge of a nationwide rail strike that would have cost our country over $2 billion per day, adding up to over $14 billion that could be lost in the first week. 

It isn’t well known, but according to the Association of American Railroads, “Freight railroads account for about 40% of U.S. long distance freight volume (measured by ton-miles) – more than any other mode of transportation.” 

Now, let’s talk about some other detrimental effects this strike could have had. The money, around $2 billion a day, would have crippled our economy, which would have resulted in trouble shipping and moving goods without the help of the trains that cross our country every day. But more on that later. 

There are a few more harmful effects this strike could have had. First, the over 100,000 workers who could have lost their source of income if forced to strike. Second, the millions of job losses that could have occurred in just the first week. 

Additionally, 33% of our country’s grain, 75% of new automobiles, and many other natural resources and commodities are shipped by rail. Cutting off that flow for just a few days would have a ripple effect throughout our entire economy, and right before the holiday season, the thing nobody wants are delays. 

There are around 115,000 railroad employees in our country, who get paid anywhere from $48,000 to roughly $83,000 annually.

Now, let’s get to the big question: Why were they going to strike? According to Rutgers University, “The ongoing dispute revolves around work-life balance issues, including scheduling, time off and adequate staffing.” Rutgers also says, “The (rail) industry has been cutting staff despite reaping soaring profits for many years.”

Luckily, the strike was averted when President Biden signed legislation on December 2nd, preventing it exactly one week before the strike was expected to occur.

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