The Biden administration is patting itself on the back for having come to a tentative settlement to avert a potential railway strike. However, the rank and file union workers have yet to agree to the deal, which heavily favors the corporations and does not meet their original demands.
If this new deal is struck down, a strike is still a possibility. Such a strike would bring freight to a standstill and could rival the Pullman Strike of 1894 and the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 in its impact. From the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) website:
Workers say the industry has imposed increasingly punitive scheduling practices that remain a major issue as rail companies’ labor forces have shrunk. Freight rail employees at major carriers say they are often required to be on call year-round, getting most time off only after having worked a set number of hours for days in a row.
And in a joint statement released by BLET and Sheet Metal Air Rail Transport Union (SMART):
These employment policies have forced thousands of employees out of the industry and make it all but impossible to recruit new workers. With understaffed operations, these railroads abuse their best customers by refusing to provide deliveries consistent with their legal obligations. These self-appointed titans of industry complain constantly about government regulation and interference — except now when it comes to breaking the backs of their employees. It’s time for the federal government to tell the CEO’s who are running the nation’s railroads into the ground that enough is enough. Congress should stay out of the rail dispute and tell the railroads to do what other business leaders do — sit down and bargain a contract that your employees will accept.
Nevertheless, the state department had chosen to intervene to prevent a strike. This summer, President Biden appointed a presidential emergency board (PEB) tasked with ending the labor dispute. The PEB came up with a list of recommendations that were suspiciously close to the desires of the railway corporations. They only recommended one additional day of paid leave as opposed to the 15 days of paid sick leave demanded by the unions. They even went so far as to recommend the unions drop the demand for paid sick leave altogether. It appears this latest settlement is closer to the PEB recommendations than the demands of labor, as Washington Post reports:
The agreement provides workers with the ability to take days off for sick leave and medical emergencies — the unions’ central demand in negotiations — although it granted them only one day of paid sick leave, according to two people briefed on the plan, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because it had not yet been publicly announced.
It is unknown how much the latest agreement corresponds with the PEB recommendations. Buried in the PEB document was also the recommendation to:
remove age limits on speech therapy and provide coverage for Applied Behavioral Analysis without age or dollar limits for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Applied Behavioral Analysis is a controversial therapy that has been condemned by much of the autistic community and has been used in conjunction with electrical shocks as a method of aversion. Although not all ABA uses such extreme measures, ABA can be extremely detrimental to the healthy development of neurodivergent individuals. Instead of paid sick leave, the Biden administration suggested giving them free coverage to torture autistic children.
Although the strike appears to have been at least temporarily averted for now, on September 13, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in regard to the potential of a strike:
A couple of things I would say about — basically, a contingency plan is what I think you’re asking me here — is: So we are working with other modes of transportation, including the shippers and truckers, air freight — air freight to see how they can step in and keep goods moving in case of this rail shutdown.
The administration has also been working with relevant agencies to assess what supply chains and commodities are most likely to face severe disruptions and available authorities to keep goods moving.
So, again, we’re really working with and trying to figure out with other modes of transportation how to move forward.
What this means is that the Biden administration was preparing to support scabs in the case of a railway strike. When it comes to labor disputes, this is the ultimate betrayal and it comes as no surprise from a corporate friendly Biden administration.
I intend to be the most pro-union President leading the most pro-union administration in American history. – President Joe Biden, September 8, 2021
This promise of Biden’s is worth about as much as the rest of his campaign promises. It is about as meaningful as the fart he let loose in front of the Duchess of Cornwall last year, a lot of hot air. Biden’s history is one of siding with corporations and screwing over the working class.
Biden began his presidency with a virtual event hosted by union-busting firm Ballard Spahr. The Biden presidential campaign received almost $209,000 from Ballard Spahr. Ballard Spahr advertises their union busting expertise on their website including “Decertification and withdrawal of union recognition” as well as “Prevention and control of strikes and picketing.” Biden loves to talk about being pro union, but he goes where the money is and that money often comes from very anti-union corporations.
The true Biden came out during the 2020 primaries when he told a union worker “You’re full of shit” and “I’m not working for you.”
This was one campaign promise that he did keep – he is not working for us. But during his campaign, another anti-labor firm was working for him. The polling company GSG was hired by the Super PAC Priorities USA which backed Biden. GSG would go on to be hired by Amazon to aid in their anti-union efforts in Staten Island in 2021.
The Democrat’s signature labor act, the PRO Act, passed the House on March 9, 2021. It was introduced in the Senate on March 11, 2021 and sent to die in the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. No actions have been taken on it since then. So much for being pro labor!
In 1999, then Senator Joe Biden voted to repeal the Glass Steagall act. This repeal deregulated Wall Street speculations and helped lead to the 2008 financial crisis. This was just part of a long history of Biden working for MBNA and other Wall Street donors. When Biden said he would prostitute himself for donations, it was one of the rare times he wasn’t lying.
Biden’s entire career has been as a puppet of Wall Street. During the primary, he took more money from anti-labor law firms than any other candidate. Pete Buttigieg was a close second. And we know that with Biden, money talks.
Meanwhile, in another attempt to avert the strike, Republican Senator Richard M. Burr tried to force the unions to be bound by the recommendations of the PEB by unanimous consent, but the Wicker-Burr resolution was blocked by independent Senator Bernie Sanders.
“What’s going on for the workers? The key issue is about the working conditions in the industry, which are absolutely unacceptable and almost beyond belief.” – Senator Bernie Sanders
The resolution might proceed as a floor vote, where Democratic Senators will have to choose if they side with labor or with capital. Nancy Pelosi gave us a hint on how that might turn out:
“We’re all hoping that negotiations will continue so there is no rail strike. I’d rather see the negotiations prevail so there is no need for actions from Congress.“
This indicates that if negotiations fail, Nancy Pelosi intends for Congress to intervene and prevent a strike. This intervention would only benefit capital and not the workers. But the state would rather see corporate profits continue than railroad workers have sick leave.
As it stands, it will be up to the rank and file union workers to decide whether one day of sick leave is acceptable. They hold all the power and I hope they hold out for the 15 days they demanded. All of the power is with the working class – the ruling class fears a railway strike that would cripple an already broken economy.
Originally published on 9-15-22 on the author’s substack An Appeal To Reason.