On today’s episode of the 5 Things podcast: Tentative labor deal avoids nationwide rail strike
The deal includes a modest pay raise and better attendance policies. Plus, health reporter Adrianna Rodriguez talks about a group of experts calling out global leaders over COVID-19 failures, Ukraine continues to re-take villages on Russia’s border, reporter Jordan Mendoza talks about Mexican Independence Day and Roger Federer retires from tennis.
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Good morning. I’m Taylor Wilson and this is 5 Things you need to know Friday, the 16th of September, 2022. Today, a rail strike is avoided. Plus calling out global leaders on COVID failures and more.
Here are some of the top headlines:
Freight railway companies and their workers reached an agreement yesterday to avoid a strike that could have suffocated the US economy. After 20 straight hours of negotiations, companies agreed to pay sick leave for the first time. Other terms of the deal include an immediate wage increase of 14% and 24% over the next five years, along with voluntary assigned days off. Unions also fought off proposals to cut locomotive crews down from two people to one. President Joe Biden intervened directly in the dispute, according to two anonymous White House officials. He warned both sides by phone that a shut is unacceptable. Biden celebrated the agreement yesterday.
President Joe Biden:
As you might guess, I am very pleased to announce a tentative labor agreement between that had been reached between the railroad workers and the railway companies. This agreement is a big win for America and for both, in my view. 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. 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. This agreement is validation. Validation what I’ve always believed, unions and management can work together.
Ahead of a possible worker strike, railroads had prepared to stop the shipment of crops and farm fertilizer shipments were delayed this week. A strike would have also disrupted passenger traffic. Amtrak canceled its long distance trains ahead of the strike deadline and was working to restore service. The deal now goes to union members for a vote after a cooling off period of several weeks. The AP’s Josh Funk has more.
The Biden administration put pressure on the railroads and unions to reach a deal this week and prevent a strike. The labor secretary, Marty Walsh, directly participated in the talk several times, and the final talks were held at the labor department to try and hash out a deal. The stakes for Biden was huge because he likes to portray himself as the most labor friendly, union supporting president we’ve ever had. And so, he is a strong supporter of unions, but it would’ve been a delicate time to have a strike just weeks before the midterm elections that could’ve derailed the economy.
The unions will hold a vote on this in the weeks ahead and we’ll have to see whether workers will support this deal. Earlier this summer, more than 99% of railroad workers voted to authorize their unions to go on strike if it came to it. So, there’s a lot of discontent among railroad workers that were hoping for concessions. We’ll have to see whether the concessions that the unions won will be enough to get their support.
Railroads have struggled to hire quickly enough to handle a surging demand after the peak of the pandemic. CSX CEO Josh Heinrichs said he hopes the new deal can help the railroad hire and hold on to more employees to help patch up delays and service problems. President of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, Dennis Pierce, predicted that workers will support the deal. But veteran Norfolk Southern engineer Hugh Sawyer said the deal does not go above and beyond.
So, on day one of a rail strike, we’re affecting the stock market. Now, if I’m so valuable to the economy, it doesn’t say, I’m not asking you to pay me a million dollars a day like you do the CEO or whatever, but it just seems like I ought to have a decent lifestyle. I’m not particularly thrilled with what’s in here. Yeah, it sounds great. Oh, you get this pay raise, but keep in mind, we’ve been without this contract for three years. At best, it’s going to keep up with inflation. And I mean, that’s where I’ve been for 34 years that I’ve been working out here, is just I feel like treading water as opposed to things getting better.
It’s ridiculous that in the 21st century, I don’t have sick days, everybody … I mean, I think most people have sick days and we don’t. This pandemic’s woken up the whole country. People have finally figured out that there’s life outside of their work. I can already tell you, union leadership’s going to really push it because they don’t want to have to go back to the table. And so, we’ll see how it goes. We’ll see if it passes muster or not. For me, I think I will probably vote, but I’m at the end of my career. I’m on my way out the door. We’ll have to see what the younger people want.
It’s still not clear whether the potential success of rail workers during the collective bargaining process will bleed into other industries. But in recent years, union activism has surged. Just this fiscal year, there’s been a 56% increase in petitions for union representation with the National Labor Relations Board. And there have been major organizing efforts at Starbucks, Amazon and other companies.
More than two years after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, a group of experts are calling out global leaders on how they failed to prevent the world’s deadliest outbreak. Health reporter, Adrianna Rodriguez tells producer PJ Elliott, what those experts say went wrong.
The report that came out is really long, really dense, really detailed, but the gist of it is that world leaders did not coordinate with each other. Governments weren’t able to coordinate their pandemic plans, their messaging, their travel protocols, their data and reporting surveillance. So, that really inhibited the efforts towards combating COVID-19.
Their criticism of policy failures were that they weren’t informed by evidence-based data. And they also didn’t address the unequal effect of the pandemic and that affected groups like essential workers, low income communities, racial and ethnic minorities, children and women, who all faced higher unemployment rates, which were exacerbated by the pandemic. And they were also at a higher risk for infection and developing severe disease.
Did these experts have any suggestion on how to end the pandemic altogether?
Yeah, so they suggest implementing a vaccination plus strategy. So, that’s mass vaccination, combined with affordable testing, treatment for not just new infections, but also long COVID, as we know that has been an issue. Public health measures, safe workplaces, and also importantly, economic support so that people can self isolate. Another thing that they believe would help end the pandemic is promoting cooperation and coordination between governments, which they said … We mentioned earlier that that was a big criticism of world leaders, that they weren’t working together.
And then finally, this last recommendation to world leaders is to strengthen their country’s public health system and health systems, so that they could be prepared for the next pandemic. This would be including bolstering relationships with local and community organizations, improving surveillance and reporting systems, making sure there’s a robust medical supply of things that they need, health education, effective communication strategies. I mean the list goes on. They really do list everything that can be done.
You can find the full story in today’s episode description.
Ukraine continues to retake villages along Russia’s border. Ukraine has retaken thousands of miles and some 300 villages and towns this month. Ukraine’s defense ministry said fleeing Russian troops are gathering in the Belgorod region on the other side of Russia’s border. That region’s governor said some residents were injured when Ukraine shells hit one border village and private homes, farms and power lines were destroyed in another.
Meanwhile, the UN atomic agency’s 35 country board of governors passed a resolution yesterday, calling on Russia to immediately end its occupation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Shelling at and around the facility in recent weeks has led to concerns across Europe of a possible radiation disaster. Poland and Canada proposed the resolution on behalf of Ukraine, which is not a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s top decision-making body. It passed with 26 votes, while Russia and China voted against, and seven Asian and African countries abstained. An IAEA mission to the plant last month, found several concerns. And the agency’s chief, Rafael Grossi, has emphatically called for shelling near the facility to end.
The shelling around Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant must stop and a nuclear safety and security protection zone agreed immediately. A nuclear power plant can never be a pawn of war. Its fate must not be decided by military means. The consequences of such action are far too grave.
But yesterday’s UN move brings an even harsher tone. The resolution says the board, “deplores the Russian Federation’s persistent violent actions against nuclear facilities in Ukraine, including forcefully seizing control of nuclear facilities.” It also calls on Russia to return control to Ukrainian authorities saying that the presence of Russian troops at the plant increases the risk of a nuclear accident. Russia responded calling the resolution, anti-Russian. The country’s Interfax Agency said quote, “The shelling is carried out by Ukraine, which Western countries support and protect in every possible way.” Unquote. Ukraine and Russia have repeatedly blamed the other for shelling around the plant.
Elsewhere, Russia’s leader, president Vladimir Putin, met with Chinese president Xi Jinping yesterday in Uzbekistan. As Europe and other parts of the West have sanctioned Russian energy in recent months, the country has dramatically increased energy sales to China. Putin praised what he called a balanced approach by China toward Russia’s invasion. He also blasted what he called ugly policies from Washington.
Today is September 16th, one of the most important days in the history of Mexico. It marks the anniversary of the country’s declaration of independence from Spain. Reporter Jordan Mendoza and PJ Elliott, have more.
September 16th, 1810. What happened was Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo, made a cry for independence hours after midnight. And it became known as Grito de Dolores. And really what it was, was it basically signified the 11 year war that was going to ensue from that between Mexico and Spain. And basically what it was, was just Mexico fighting for its independence from Spanish rule.
Jordan, how does Mexico’s independence story differ from the United States?
One could say that when the US finally won the Revolutionary War against Britain, the country was off and running. Things were getting figured out. We had a whole constitution and Bill of Rights was set up not too long afterwards, where with Mexico, it wasn’t even close to that. Being under Spanish rule, there was so much hardship put down on the Mexican people here, and so many people’s lives were lost in the war. I mean, when you think about maybe close to 7,000 Americans were killed in the Revolutionary War and the Mexican Revolutionary War, there was around 15,000 people, so a much bigger toll taken on the country. And when we’re talking about resources being depleted after that, it was hard, it was not … So after this 11 year war and Mexico finally got its independence, things weren’t all that great in the country. They were still very vulnerable, still very young country, just trying to piece together where to go after finally gaining their independence.
So, talk to me about the difference between Mexican independence day and Cinco de Mayo.
Yeah. So, they’re always getting mixed up between the two. People think when they see people celebrating in September 16th, they’re like, “Oh, I thought Cinco de Mayo was their independence day.” And then when then it’s Cinco de Mayo, people think like, “Oh, it’s Mexican independence day.” Well, Cinco de Mayo is when Mexico is able to overpower France in 1862. So, Mexico is already a country by then. And Mexican independence day, it’s close to a lot of Mexican hearts because, well, for one, it was the beginning of their country. It’s the beginning of their heritage, beginning of their home. And while they both have similar meanings of being able to defeat European power, September 16th just gets a little left behind as opposed to Cinco to Mayo because of the commercialization behind Cinco de Mayo. You see parties and you see deals for Cinco de Mayo, whereas Mexican independence day, you don’t really see that. So, there are some similarities to it, but they’re vastly different time periods of when things happened and really for a lot of Mexicans and even some Mexican Americans, September 16th really is a very important day. Not only for their homeland, or for the people that their ancestors, but very close to their heart as well, too.
Roger Federer is retiring from tennis. The 41 year old had hoped for one last hurrah next year, and a try at some Grand Slam tournaments one more time. But after a series of knee surgeries, the Swiss player is calling it a career. The superstar walks away from the sport with 20 Grand Slam singles titles and five seasons as the number one ranked player in the world. USA TODAY Sports’ Dan Wolken has more.
Sad, but not unexpected news in the world of tennis, is Roger Federer announces Thursday that his last competitive match will be next week at the Labor Cup. Federer is 41 years old. He’s won 20 Grand Slam titles. He is a global icon to the sport and he wanted to come back one more time, play a season in 2023, and say goodbye to the sport that has given him so much. But he has acknowledged that his body will not allow him to do that in the way he wants, so he is calling it a career right now.
Federer’s had a lot of issues with his knee. He’s had three surgeries. He’s tried to come back, it’s just not going to be possible. So, he will play this one final event, which is kind of an exhibition. And that will be that.
He leaves behind a legacy that is really almost unmatched in the sport. Even though Nadal and Djokovic have surpassed him in number of Grand Slam titles, Federer brought an artistry to the game that just drew in so many people. It packed stadiums around the world. Fans just responded to him, they loved watching him play. He had so much grace and class on the court. He made things look just so easy and effortless, even though he was clearly one of the hardest working players in the sport, who even late in his career, was able to adapt and grow and get better, and find solutions in areas where he was falling short and came back 2017 to number one in the world, after he’d been written off years earlier.
For more, head over to USA TODAY Sports. And you can find 5 Things every morning right here, wherever you’re listening right now. Thanks to PJ Elliott for his great work on the show, and I’m back tomorrow with more of 5 Things from USA TODAY.
On today’s episode of the 5 Things podcast: Tentative labor deal avoids nationwide rail strike