“A tentative agreement announced Thursday looks likely to head off a strike that would have brought freight trains across the U.S. to a screeching halt. But the concern generated by the possibility of such a disruption highlights how fragile the nation’s supply chains remain 2 1/2 years after they were first upended by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The breakthrough in negotiations was announced by Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, who hosted talks between unions representing 115,000 railway workers and the country’s largest railroads. If the unions accept the deal, workers will get double-digit raises, more flexible attendance policies and other benefits. President Biden called the agreement a win for rail workers who worked through the pandemic “to ensure that America’s families and communities got deliveries of what have kept us going during these difficult years.”

“Unfortunately, I just don’t see anything in the next year or two that’s going to lessen the number of disruptions,” says Lisa Anderson, a supply chain expert and president of California-based LMA Consulting Group.

A rebound in demand since the worst days of the pandemic and supply disruptions due to the war in Ukraine combined to drive up the price of gas to unprecedented levels earlier this summer.”

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