President Joe Biden and the White House have a rare, union-related problem that could profoundly impact the U.S. economy in a matter of weeks.
Someone at the White House might want to provide the president a fresh towel to wipe some of the egg off of his face, as earlier this year, Biden performed a public victory lap for averting what was possibly a railroad worker strike. Using executive mediation, the Biden administration thought they had an easy win in the bag at the time, as The Washington Post reported.
Unfortunately for America, it didn’t take. While many of the unions representing railroad workers agreed to the offer proposed by the Biden administration, several did not. Those unions are now leveraging their power to secure every last demand in an updated contract, and they’re ticked off at the president for siding with “big business” instead of the workers on the ground.
The deadline to avert a potential strike, which would immediately cripple an already-fragile U.S. economy, is Dec. 9.
According to a bombshell news release from Railroad Workers United, railroad workers that it represents are not giving in and say they’re in this for the “long haul” to ensure they get the reforms they want, which seem to hinge around paid sick days and vacation time.
On Monday, President Biden further stoked the flames of the looming strike situation by passing the buck to Congress. In a tweet, he demanded Congress take charge and enforce the Tentative Agreement that the White House mediated between railroad carriers and rail workers.
I’m calling on Congress to pass legislation immediately to adopt the Tentative Agreement between railroad workers and operators.
Let me be clear: a rail shutdown would devastate our economy. Without freight rail, many U.S. industries would shut down.
— President Biden (@POTUS) November 29, 2022
RWU responded to Biden’s call for Congress to intervene and clearly stated that it’s done playing games.
“This is a legacy defining moment for Joe Biden. He is going down as one of the biggest disappointments in labor history,” RWU tweeted.
“Unfortunately, the ‘most labor-friendly president’ has opted to side with Big Business and call for a thwarting of railroad workers’ right to strike,” RWU’s statement read.
It added, “On Monday, President Joe Biden called upon Congress to adopt legislation that would mandate a contract and end the threat of any legally sanctioned rail strike from happening. This, although railroad workers have voiced a deep desire to strike in recent months. Rail unions representing more than 55 percent of railroad workers have voted down their respective tentative contracts with the rail carriers in recent weeks.”
According to CNN, the U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote on enforcing the negotiated railroad worker contract. If passed, it would mark the 19th time in U.S. history that Congress has had to intervene in averting a railroad strike, as such a strike would have dire consequences.
RWU Treasurer Hugh Sawyer didn’t pull any punches in his thoughts on how badly President Biden — a man who ran his campaign on being Labor’s best friend — has blown this deal.
“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. 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,” Sawyer was quoted as saying in the RWU statement.
RWU Co-Chair and conductor Gabe Christenson echoed that same anger toward the president and members of Congress.
“These wolves in sheep’s clothing have for decades been in bed with corporate America and have allowed them to continue chipping away at the American middle class and organized labor,” Christenson said.
He added, “This announcement proves that the current state of two-party politics will never address our concerns and must be changed. While this latest turn of events is disheartening and most definitely is a setback, railroad workers will continue to fight for what we deserve.”
As tensions between the White House, labor unions, and railway carriers reach a fever pitch ahead of Wednesday’s vote, CNN noted that House lawmakers could also exercise the ability to extend the “cooling-off period,” which would allow all sides extra time, again, to sort out a solution that pleases all.
A railroad worker strike is estimated to cost America roughly $2 billion daily.
Concluding its statement, the union said it “will continue to fight” for its workers.
Railroad workers have found support from several sources, including progressive Democrats who seem frustrated with the White House for taking the stance that it did, to fellow labor unions, like a major flight attendant’s union that issued a statement of solidarity on Wednesday morning.
“Paid sick leave is a basic right and a necessity for a safe workplace. Flight Attendants stand in solidarity with America’s rail workers.” Read @FlyingWithSara‘s statement: https://t.co/xXRVFqTpLZ pic.twitter.com/u4pZrFFBWW
— AFA-CWA (@afa_cwa) November 30, 2022
The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters released a statement on President Biden’s stance on the issue, expressing its disappointment.
“Indeed, the big corporations, the monopolies that control America — the robber baron railroads — have again profiteered from the problem they created and shifted the consequences of it onto the Railroad Workers, the customers, and the general public. This cannot continue. There must be a change,” the statement read.
It appears that decades of pandering to unions have led Biden to a point where those unions can use their powerful influence on voters to get anything and everything they want, even at the expense of hamstringing the U.S. economy in unspeakable ways at the worst possible time in modern U.S. history.
One might say that President Biden is about to reap what he sowed.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.