President Biden’s effort to prevent a national rail strike that could paralyze the nation’s economy is facing opposition from progressive Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Far-left lawmakers like Senator Bernie Sanders say Biden’s request from Congress to pass legislation preventing nearly 100,000 railroad workers from going on strike is inappropriate given the unions are still pushing for wider paid sick leave.
“If the rail industry is able to spend $25.5 billion this year to buy back its own shares and pay huge dividends to its wealthy shareholders, please tell me that it cannot guarantee its workers paid sick leave and a good quality of life to them,” Sanders told I-Vt., Tuesday.
Representative Jaamal Bowman, a member of the “Team”, even said Biden, who pledged to become the most pro-union president in history on the campaign trail, made an unfair claim.
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“What we’re seeing is an inhuman agreement being imposed on workers even after it’s been rejected by the majority,” said Bowman of DN.Y. If we are a pro-labor party, we must protect them,” he said.
Over the weekend, Biden asked Congress to pass and pass legislation preventing a national rail strike before December 9. Biden’s proposed law would give engineers and conductors three unpaid sick days for inspection appointments, as long as the days off are scheduled. with 30 days’ notice.
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The legislation is based on an agreement that railroad companies and transport unions agreed on in September. Eight unions have already accepted the deal, while four have not. Conciliators are demanding broader paid sick leave provisions.
The stalemate between the resistance unions and the railroad companies did not resolve on its own, even as White House officials increasingly developed. Biden said the lack of progress forced him to ask Congress to intervene and prevent a strike.
“The closure of the railroad would destroy our economy,” Biden said. “Without the freight rail, many US industries would shut down.”
The situation remains unclear as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have pledged to pass the deal before the December 9 deadline.
Democrats have only narrow control over the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Inside the House, Pelosi can only lose a handful of Democrat votes in any law before she has to rely on GOP support. In the 50-50 Senate, at least 10 GOP supporters will be needed to tackle a filibuster.
At the moment, these odds seem long. Sanders promises to force a vote on expanding paid sick leave provisions to railroad workers.
“I think it’s the duty of Congress to do everything it can to protect these workers so that the railroad begins to treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve,” Sanders said.
Meanwhile, some Republicans take a wait-and-see approach. Few wished to see a national rail strike, but the problem escalated to the point where congressional participation was warranted.
“MPs are often frustrated [Biden] “The administration was unable to reach an agreement and pushed the issue here,” said an aide to the GOP Senate leadership. “This should have been addressed months ago at the appropriate level.”
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Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., even criticized Biden for trying to impose a union contract that was rejected by ordinary railroad workers.
“Just because Congress has the power to impose a drastic solution doesn’t mean we have to,” Rubio said. “Failing to fight for the workers, it is wrong of the Biden administration to ask Congress to impose a deal that the workers themselves reject.”