U.S President Joe Biden said early Thursday major railroads and workers’ unions had reached a tentative agreement on better pay and improved working conditions intended to avert a nationwide rail strike.

“It is a win for tens of thousands of rail workers who worked tirelessly through the pandemic to ensure that America’s families and communities got deliveries of what have kept us going during these difficult years,” Biden said.

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh tweeted that the deal came after 20 hours of negotiations between rail companies and labor unions.

Walsh said the agreement “balances the needs of workers, businesses, and our nation’s economy.”

“Our rail system is integral to our supply chain, and a disruption would have had catastrophic impacts on industries, travelers and families across the country,” Walsh said.

Unions were seeking pay raises and better working conditions, along with changes to attendance policies that workers said make it difficult to take time off for things such as doctor appointments.

Union members must approve the tentative agreement.

Biden called the deal “an important win for our economy and the American people.”

“These rail workers will get better pay, improved working conditions, and peace of mind around their health care costs: all hard-earned,” Biden said in a statement.  “The agreement is also a victory for railway companies who will be able to retain and recruit more workers for an industry that will continue to be part of the backbone of the American economy for decades to come.”

A potential strike raised fears of major disruptions to deliveries of critical goods throughout the country.

Some information for this report came from Reuters and The Associated Press.

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