Customers browse racks of clothing as they shop inside a discount department retail store in Las Vegas, Nevada, on May 7, 2022. - The US economy added a better-than-expected 428,000 jobs in April, with the unemployment rate remaining at a low 3.6 percent, the Labor Department reported. The data pointed to continued strong employment growth and contained hints that some inflationary pressures may be easing, with workers' wages rising less than in March. But investors remain anxious that rising prices and higher interest rates will hit consumers, slowing the economy's expansion in the second half of 2022. (Photo by Patrick T. FALLON / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)
CNN reporter shows what consumer price growth means for inflation
02:50 - Source: CNN
New York CNN  — 

The nation’s leading retailers warned Monday that Congress may need to step in to avert a devastating freight rail strike they fear could spoil food, interrupt the delivery of goods bought online and worsen inflation.

The Retail Industry Leaders Association, a trade group whose members include Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Home Depot and dozens of other brands, said a strike would cause an “enormous disruption to the flow of goods nationwide” and ripple through the supply chain and economy at large.

“Retailers urge policymakers to use every tool at their disposal to avoid a self-inflicted economic disaster,” the trade group said in a statement.

The warning was issued shortly after America’s largest rail union rejected a tentative labor deal with freight railroads, raising the risk of a crippling national freight rail strike.

“Fortunately, this year’s holiday gifts have already landed on store shelves,” the retail group said. “But an interruption to rail transportation does pose a significant challenge to getting items like perishable food products and e-commerce shipments delivered on time, and it will undoubtedly add to the inflationary pressures already hitting the US economy.

The Retail Industry Leaders Association said that if no agreement is reached by December 9, Congress must act quickly to codify the tentative agreement reached in September.

The National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail trade group, similarly called on Congress to intervene “immediately” to avoid a “catastrophic shutdown” of the freight rail system.

A rail strike would come at a difficult time as the US economy is still grappling with high inflation, surging borrowing costs and elevated recession risks.

“This would be the worst possible time of year to have a disruption in rail freight and rail transportation,” Matthew Shay, CEO of the NRF, told CNN on Monday. “We’re hopeful they’ll get a resolution. If they don’t, we expect Congress to act very quickly to resolve this.”

CNN’s Vanessa Yurkevich contributed to this report.