QUEENSGATE, Ohio (WKRC) - Amtrak has canceled all its long-distance routes ahead of a potential railroad worker strike that could bring the economy to a grinding halt.
If a deal isn’t reached between the labor unions and railroad companies, railroad tracks across the country will remain empty, and that means any local companies depending on trains to get their products must find another way. That is going to be tough, if not impossible, given the existing supply chain issues and truck driver shortage.
CSX's Queensgate Yard is one of its busiest. It handles all types of products, from containers to plastics to farm crops.
“You don't have to look very far to realize how important rail is to agriculture. Almost every cooperative, grain elevator, retailer, they all are located right next to a railroad, simply because that's the way we get goods to and from the farm,” said Ty Higgins with Ohio Farm Bureau.
More than a quarter of freight travels by rail in the United States. The system was already struggling to keep up.
"Something like this would have a major impact immediately as far as getting goods from point A to point B. That could be from the farm to the table or from the processing facility to the grocery store," Higgins said.
Because rail traffic is so vital, federal law gives Congress the power to step in and prevent railway workers from striking. However, Democratic leaders say they're not going to go down that road.
Economics Center at the University of Cincinnati Executive Director David Mahon, Ph.D., says a strike would send prices higher, but also, we would likely see fewer items and foods in the grocery store. He says there's no quick fix if the strike happens.
"The trucking industry does not have the capacity when it comes to equipment or drivers to pick up the slack from a railway strike. So, Congress might have to act," Mahon said.
Mahon says that would just be kicking the can down the road and likely lead to a strike during the holiday shopping season.
The strike is set to start at midnight on Friday. The Biden administration says it's working on contingency plans, including potentially adding more truckers to keep goods moving, but there is no word how it would accomplish that.