Many essential workers in the pandemic tired of unpredictable, inflexible work schedules.

They're tired of being penalized for taking days off when they're sick or tending to a family emergency. They want a better quality of life.

By contract negotiations, they made their voices heard, threatening a strike that could have brought trains to a halt nationwide on Friday.

Early Thursday morning, after 20 hours of negotiations, the White House announced a tentative agreement had been reached.

Freight railroads and the unions representing more than 100,000 rail workers had been negotiating a contract for several years.

President Biden recommended a compromise over the summer that would give workers a 24% increase in wages.

Both the unions and the railroad companies essentially agreed to the board's economic proposals.

But until early Thursday, there remained one major sticking point: a workplace attendance policy that the unions call draconian.

The unions had sought a change to the policy to ensure that workers can take time off to tend to medical needs when necessary, without fear of discipline.

A spokesperson for the Labor Department said it "balances the needs of workers, businesses, and our nation's economy."