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Congress Commits To Preventing A Railroad Strike
Given the Democratic Party’s long-standing image as the party more sympathetic to worker rights and labor unions, there’s no getting around the astoundingly bad optics of Nancy Pelosi’s swift embrace of corporate America’s appeal to Congress to prohibit a nationwide railroad strike.
In a press conference, Mrs. Pelosi said that the House will aim to quickly pass legislation that accepts the original labor union agreement negotiated by Biden administration officials plus additional railway worker benefits added from subsequent negotiations.
“I don’t like going against the ability of unions to strike, but weighing the equities, we must avoid a strike. Jobs will be lost, even union jobs will be lost, water will not be safe, product will not be going to market,” she said Tuesday after meeting with President Biden and congressional leaders of both parties at the White House. “That must be avoided.”
Perhaps if Ms. Pelosi had taken just a little more time to “weigh the equities” before kow-towing to corporate America’s insistence that Congress tell railroad workers “no striking, and here’s your new labor agreement,” she might have pulled off the “for the good of the country” stance.
Keep in mind that the open letter to Congress by a slew of state and national trade groups came out just yesterday.
With nearly two weeks to craft any potential legislative solution, Pelosi’s haste to accommodate the trade groups’ request seems almost obsequious in nature.
For their part, the railroad unions lost no time in condemning the haste of both the Biden Regime and Congressional Democrats in seeking a legislative resolution to the labor impasse.
Rail workers unions blasted President Biden Monday after he pressed Congress to force the organized labor groups to accept a tentative agreement in order to avert a strike.
“Joe Biden blew it,” Railroad Workers United Treasurer Hugh Sawyer said in a press release hours after the president told House and Senate leaders one of his top priorities is to stop the looming labor strike.
“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 added.
Indeed, with the principal sticking points in the most recent rounds of contract negotiations being work schedules and sick days, it is difficult to challenge Hugh Sawyer’s view of the situation.
Labor unions have criticized the railroads' sick leave and attendance policies and the lack of paid sick days for short-term illness. There are no paid sick days under the tentative deal. Unions asked for 15 paid sick days and the railroads settled on one personal day.
Increased insistence on paid sick days is one of the many consequential aftereffects of the Pandemic Panic Narrative and the associated lockdowns across the country. For “essential” workers to have worked through that period, ostensibly risking COVID exposure and infection, only to be denied paid sick days down the road is nothing if not outright hypocrisy.
While there is no inherent obligation on the part of any US President to “prove” a “labor-friendly pedigree”, the timing of the trade group letter, the White House quick call for Congress to pass legislation to resolve the labor dispute, and Pelosi’s quick acceptance of that call certainly do more to prove Democrats’ “Big Business-friendly” pedigree than any affinity for labor unions.
While Congressional authority in this area is nearly a century old—the original Railway Labor Act (45 USC Chapter 8) having been passed in 1926—it is far from certain that the law is itself good law, or that the current situation requires Congress to step in.
At least one Senate Republican, Florida’s Marco Rubio, lost no time in condemning the Democrats’ haste.
Not that the Republicans are suddenly Big Labor’s newest BFF. Back in July when the threat of a rail strike first emerged in earnest, it was Senate Republicans who were leading the call for Congressional legislation to prevent a possible labor strike.
On Wednesday, Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina and Roger Wicker of Mississippi introduced a resolution that would enact recommendations from a presidentially appointed panel aiming to resolve the labor dispute. They want Congress to intervene if the unions do not voluntarily agree to the contract by the end of this week, and pave the way for wage increases — which, as the Washington Post reports, does not touch on workers' demands to stop being penalized for illness or family absences.
"There are mechanisms that have been in the law for a long time to allow Congress to step in and prevent the economic disaster that would ensue," Wicker said on Wednesday. "I think it's time to invoke that provisional law."
The reporting on this story indicates that this time Senate Republicans are poised to go along with whatever cram-down House Democrats concoct.
Any House-approved legislation would also need passage in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said at Tuesday’s press conference that he and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) have agreed to work together quickly for the legislation to pass the Senate.
There is no denying that the economic impact of a nationwide rail strike would be somewhere beyond devastating.
Yet there is also no denying that the contracts presented to the union rank and file, only to be rejected, gave railway workers no paid sick days.
Is it really so important for the railroads to “win” that basic civil liberties must get tossed aside over a few paid sick days more or less?
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