Congress intervenes to keep rail workers on the job

December 9, 2022 By    

It took U.S. congressional action to prevent tens of thousands of rail workers from walking off their jobs in December.

A bill forcing the nation’s rail unions to accept a tentative agreement from September passed both chambers of Congress and received President Joe Biden’s signature about a month before the new year.

Concern about the stability of the rail networks, which play a vital role in the supply and distribution of propane, had been growing amid a labor dispute between the nation’s freight railroads and their union workers.

The dispute had intensified during the summer, creating fears about how a strike and railway shutdown would hamper the U.S. economy – not to mention the movement of propane supplies during the winter heating season.

In July, the Biden administration intervened by naming members of an emergency board to help bring the sides together. The parties reached a tentative agreement on Sept. 15, but four of the 12 unions, seeking additional paid sick leave, rejected the deal, stoking fears about a strike beginning Dec. 9.

In early September, the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) began to highlight the impacts a strike would have on the propane industry. Over the next several months, it partnered with other trade associations, engaged with government entities and communicated with the Congressional Propane Caucus, among other stakeholders, about the situation. 

“We have about 15 different irons in the fire and buttons we’re trying to push, along with almost every other industry,” NPGA President and CEO Steve Kaminski shared before Congress approved the legislation. “We’re pushing the class ones [railroad carriers], the unions, as well as Congress.”

NPGA also shared its message through letter-writing. The association organized a grassroots campaign in which members sent over 4,500 letters to their representatives and senators.

NPGA also signed a letter from the National Retail Federation, joining more than 300 trade associations calling on the White House to play an active role in ensuring the stability of the rail system and avoiding potential damage to the economy. It followed that letter to Washington with one of its own – to Biden and others.

“With harvest well underway across the country, and parts of the U.S. projected to experience below-average temperatures, any disruption to the propane supply chain could have catastrophic consequences,” Kaminski writes.

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About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at or 216-706-3748.

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