All the unions that blindly supported President Joe Biden during the 2020 presidential election are once again learning the hard way that their decision to back him may have been a gigantic error in judgment
At issue is a labor deal between railroad workers and railroads that was brokered by the White House. Of the 12 major railroad labor unions, only eight support the deal. The other four oppose it because they want more paid sick days.
But instead of continuing to negotiate a better deal, the president has decided to supersede the labor unions’ authority and demand that Congress use its power to unilaterally push through the deal itself to avoid a rail shutdown.
“I am calling on Congress to pass legislation immediately to adopt the Tentative Agreement between railroad workers and operators – without any modifications or delay – to avert a potentially crippling national rail shutdown,” he said on Monday.
“As a proud pro-labor President, I am reluctant to override the ratification procedures and the views of those who voted against the agreement. But in this case – where the economic impact of a shutdown would hurt millions of other working people and families – I believe Congress must use its powers to adopt this deal,” he added.
The statement sparked anger from the opposing labor unions.
Last night, the “most pro-labor president in American history” asked Congress to intervene and impose a deal on American rail workers many have already rejected. The rhetorical gymnastics in the White House’s statement really must be seen to be believed. https://t.co/eOhjl7TXL0 pic.twitter.com/C7YkirGu7b
— Luke Savage (@LukewSavage) November 29, 2022
Some of the backlash came from the Railroad Workers United (RWU) union.
“Joe Biden blew it. He had the opportunity to prove his labor-friendly pedigree to millions of workers by simply asking Congress for legislation to end the threat of a national strike on terms more favorable to workers,” RWU treasurer Hugh Sawyer said in a statement.
“Sadly, he could not bring himself to advocate for a lousy handful of sick days. The Democrats and Republicans are both pawns of big business and the corporations,” he added.
Press Release from RWU:
“Joe Biden blew it. He had the opportunity to prove his labor-friendly pedigree to millions of workers by simply asking Congress for legislation to end the threat of a national strike on terms more favorable to workers.”https://t.co/3SOKQvnQCI
— Railroad Workers United ✊ (@railroadworkers) November 29, 2022
Backlash also came from the Brotherhood of Maintenance Way Employees union.
“It is not enough to ‘share workers’ concerns.’ A call to Congress to act immediately to pass legislation that adopts tentative agreements that exclude paid sick leave ignores the Railroad Workers’ concerns. It both denies Railroad Workers their right to strike while also denying them of the benefit they would likely otherwise obtain if they were not denied their right to strike,” the union said in a statement.
“Additionally, passing legislation to adopt tentative agreements that exclude paid sick leave for Railroad Workers will not address rail service issues. Rather, it will worsen supply chain issues and further sicken, infuriate, and disenfranchise Railroad Workers as they continue shouldering the burdens of the railroads’ mismanagement,” it added.
White House Decision to Force Tentative Agreement Does Not Address Rail Industry Disease.https://t.co/KuoVT75MkK
— BMWED (@BMWEDIBT) November 29, 2022
As to the legislation, it’s backed by all major congressional leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“President Joe Biden hosted a rare meeting of the four House and Senate leaders Tuesday at the White House, where Republicans and Democrats agreed to pass a bill to avert a nationwide rail workers’ strike before the U.S. economy could start to feel its effects as soon as this weekend,” CNBC confirmed Tuesday.
However, there are dissidents on both the left and right, including democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, an Independent.
“On Monday night, Sanders said the ‘tentative agreement’ doesn’t go far enough ‘by any means,'” according to The Washington Post.
“I would like to see management come to the table and treat their workers with respect. If they don’t, then Congress has got to act to make sure that there is guaranteed sick leave for these workers,” he reportedly said.
At a time of record profits in the rail industry, it’s unacceptable that rail workers have ZERO guaranteed paid sick days. It’s my intention to block consideration of the rail legislation until a roll call vote occurs on guaranteeing 7 paid sick days to rail workers in America.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) November 29, 2022
Over on the right meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican, has also vowed to vote against the deal.
“Just because Congress has the authority to impose a heavy-handed solution does not mean we should. It is wrong for the Biden Administration, which has failed to fight for workers, to ask Congress to impose a deal the workers themselves have rejected. I will not vote for any deal that does not have the support of the rail workers,” he said in a statement.
“On the one hand, Wall Street’s drive for efficiency has turned rail workers into little more than line items on a spreadsheet. On the other hand, you have union leadership so disconnected from its rank and file that they struck a deal their members can’t support,” the Republican senator added.
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