Photo: A freight train carrying shipping containers travels toward the Union Pacific Intermodal Terminal in Salt Lake City, Utah, on November 4, 2021. Photographer: George Frey/Bloomberg A freight train carrying shipping containers travels toward the Union Pacific Intermodal Terminal in Salt Lake City, Utah, on November 4, 2021. Photographer: George Frey/Bloomberg

In a short time, a critical cog of the American economy could come to an abrupt halt.

Unions and freight railroads that transport about 40 percent of all long-haul cargo in the United States have until the end of Thursday in Washington to agree to a labor deal. If they fail, more than 100,000 railroad workers could walk off the job or be locked out, paralyzing a linchpin of the country’s supply chain.

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