ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A nationwide rail strike could severely affect our supply chain system, right before the holiday season. And it’s something truckers and economists are fearing if a labor agreement isn’t reached, between rail workers and the government.

The House of Representatives is moving urgently to avoid potential strike, passing a bill on Tuesday for a proposed contract that will soon head to the Senate, and then the president’s desk. President Biden is expected to sign it.

But the question now is, how soon? And how would a nationwide strike affect us locally?

Economic experts say we should pay close attention to these developments, because if a strike ever were to happen, it would severely affect our economy.

“Rail is one of the modes of transportation that you can move big and bulky stuff long distance for relatively cheap,” said Steven Carnovale, Associate Professor of Supply Chain Management at RIT.

But a lot of raw material is dependent on it. And it’s something that could affect our local truckers, and the supply chain there.

“You think about the interconnectedness of everything, it starts with trains not moving, leading to trucks not having the fluid to be able to combust the oil, which leads to products not being delivered, to repair the products to harvest the food… there’s a lot of complexity,” said Carnovale.

Carnovale said since this is a national issue, it’s likely this new labor contract will move quickly, before the deadline of December 9. That’s when rail workers threaten to strike, if an agreement isn’t reached.

So what’s causing this movement?

“You could look at it as, an outgrowth of the impact COVID had on the service industry, generally speaking,” said Carnovale. “The pressure that’s been put on all the network, the rail network to a breaking point to force these renegotiations.”

A tentative agreement was reached back in September, but over the course of a few months, a few unions voted no.

Carnovale said the crux of the disagreement seems to be over paid sick time; having options for individual vacation time, personal time and sick time.

A statement from the Association of American Railroad, representing major freight railroads across the country, says in part:

“Time is limited to bring this round of national bargaining to a conclusion…

No one benefits from a rail work stoppage – not our customers, not rail employees, and not the American economy…

Now is the time for congress to pass legislation to implement agreements already ratified by eight out of twelve unions. – AAR President and CEO Ian Jefferies