“I thank the unions and rail companies for negotiating in good faith and reaching a tentative agreement that will keep our critical rail system working and avoid disruption of our economy,” President Joe Biden said in a statement.

Biden said the deal gives rail workers better pay, improved working conditions and “peace of mind around their health care costs.”

A strike had been planned for 12:01 a.m. on Friday.

National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement the industry was “relieved and cautiously optimistic that this devastating nationwide rail strike has been averted. …

“We hope railway workers will accept the new terms of the proposed contract and the railway system can continue to operate on behalf of the millions of hardworking Americans who rely on it for their jobs and the economic security of our country,” Shay added.

Currently, rail moves about 28% of U.S. freight, which means trucks would have to pick up the slack. Union leaders were haggling over time off, pay raises and bonuses as several industries watched closely, fearing the worst.

The rail industry and rail unions have been in contract talks since 2019. In July, Biden appointed a Presidential Emergency Board to investigate and make recommendations.

The recommendations included a 24% wage increase, plus $1,000 annual bonuses to be applied retroactively back to 2020. They also included increased health care and other benefits. Not all of the unions agreed.

Under the Railway Labor Act, Congress has stepped in and stopped rail disruptions at least 18 times in the past.

Regional Editor

An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher.