Biden avoids rail strike but jeopardizes his union support

Biden avoids rail strike but jeopardizes his union support

Joe Biden signed a deal between freight railroads and organized labor to avert a possible strike, but signed it into law, risking a split with rank-and-file union workers who oppose the agreement.

“It was hard for me,” Biden said at a White House signing ceremony on Friday, declaring the bill as the only option to stop a devastating job that would have threatened key supply chains before the Christmas holiday. . “To protect millions of working families from harm and destruction, and to keep supply chains stable around the holidays, this was the right time to do it.”

But the president risks alienating labor activists and workers who have long proved key political allies, further undermining ties between Democrats and the white working class, and failing to fulfill a key promise. push for — an extension of paid sick leave — that ranks as impossible. – Impossible because Republicans take control of the House of Representatives in the new Congress.

Biden has said labor unions would have to wait to receive sick leave, which was excluded from the contract, but gave no timetable for when he could deliver. Asked when workers can expect those benefits, Biden said: “As soon as I can convince my Republicans to see the light.”

An attempt by Democrats to amend the agreement to include seven days of paid sick leave for workers failed when it failed to garner the necessary Republican votes in the Senate. The sick leave amendment, pushed by independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, received 52 votes, just short of the 60 votes needed for passage.

GOP lawmakers have seized on the controversy to highlight Biden’s rift with organized labor. Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley was one of the conservative Republicans who took up the cause of workers, using it to galvanize the White House.

“During Covid all these people work from home all the time, right,” Hawley told reporters on Thursday. “Who knows how many people are still working from home in the White House. And yet if a railroad worker wants more than a day’s sick leave, oh, oh, God, we can’t possibly do that.

Hawley, along with many other Republicans, voted for additional sick leave and against legislation to implement the deal, along with a handful of Senate liberals such as Sanders and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

GOP Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas’ vote for paid sick leave prompted Sanders to joke on the Senate floor, “I knew you were a socialist.”

But Republicans, who largely oppose interfering in labor disputes and who have come out against expanding such benefits in the past, will move paid sick leave legislation for railroad or other workers in the next Congress. Biden is unlikely to provide the necessary assistance to do so.

Biden has called himself the most pro-union president in US history, but his actions on the railroad strike threaten to undermine rank-and-file workers’ support of the president and union leaders.

In the months after individually negotiating the September agreement, four of the 12 unions involved in the talks – representing about 54,500 workers – rejected the contract. According to the National Railway Labor Conference, the unions that have approved it represent about 43,000 workers.

A former union president, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal dynamics, expressed frustration at the AFL-CIO’s lack of participation, which he saw as tacit support of Biden’s plan to eliminate sick leave.

“Biden will not be there unless he has the blessing of these unions,” the person said. “That’s the difference, as my great-grandmother used to say – it’s time to look at your feet, not your mouth.”

The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters said Tuesday it was “deeply disappointed” by Biden’s decision to implement a settlement.

Criticism from unions and progressive Democrats has put Biden on the defensive.

Biden on Friday dubbed the legislation a “really good bill lacking only one thing.”

The agreement includes a 24% pay raise, an average of $11,000 in back-pay bonuses, an extra day of paid vacation and would freeze health-insurance premium increases.

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said it ultimately pushed for the administration to include sick leave in the negotiated deal because of the risk of a strike affecting the nation’s food supply and jeopardizing the post-pandemic economic recovery. Gone.

Walsh said in an interview with Bloomberg Television, “When you look at the devastation that a national rail strike would cause to America that is far greater than the cost of going ahead.”

An analysis by the Andersen Economic Group estimated that US workers and consumers could lose $1 billion in the strike’s first week.

Walsh defended the authenticity of Biden’s union, saying that unlike previous cases in which Congress had intervened, the president won significant concessions for workers – including wage increases, unpaid leave and protection of health care premiums.

“There are some very good provisions in the contract,” Walsh said. “Not that it was a bad contract.”

Nevertheless, the Secretary of Labor stated that he planned to engage the freight rail companies on the issue of paid leave, adding that the two sides did not need to wait for the new contract to expire, thereby improving relations between the two parties. Can be improved

“I intend to sit down with the companies and talk about some of the things that I heard from the unions during the negotiations,” Walsh said.

The president, joined at the signing by Walsh, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, thanked his team, vowed to double down on his efforts on paid leave.

“They did one thing to avert a real disaster. And then ended up with a good product. But we still have more work to do, I think ill not only for railroad workers, but for every worker in America.” In terms of paid leave,” he said.

Bloomberg writers Ian Kullgren and Jarrell Dillard contributed to this report.

About Charles 51664 Articles
Charles writes for the Headline column of the website. He has done major in English, and a having a diploma in Journalism. He has worked for more than 1.5 years in a media house. Now, he joined our team as a contributor for covering the latest US headlines. He is smart both by him looks and nature. He is very good with everyone in the team.