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Potential rail strike could affect Michigan industry, commerce

City street intersection and railroad crossing.
Emma Winowiecki
Michigan Radio

Major sectors of Michigan’s economy could be affected if a threatened national rail strike takes place next week.

Several rail workers' unions have not approved a new contract. The Biden administration is trying to broker a deal to avoid a strike that could start December 9.

Analysts say Michigan’s auto and agriculture industries would be most affected by a rail strike.

Mike Alaimo is the director of environmental and energy affairs for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. He tracks supply chain issues for the chamber.

“Maybe there won’t be direct demand/supply restraints,” said Alaimo, “But I do expect to see price effects from the potential disruption here.”

There is disagreement among analysts as to the financial impact of national rail strike.

Patrick Anderson of East Lansing-based Anderson Economic Group estimates the cost of a rail strike would start at $60 million the first day and grow each day after that. The Association of American Rail pegs the cost at closer to $2 billion a day.

Despite the cost, Anderson does not expect a rail strike will hurt holiday shopping.

“It might affect a few very in-demand toys. But that could happen in any year," he said. "Right now we have supply chain difficulties in a lot of industries, but don’t worry about this being the Grinch that steals Christmas.”

Job attendance and sick leave policies are the main sticking points in contract talks between railway workers and rail companies.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.