Biden and Democrats are walking a tightrope with allies of the Railroad Workers Union

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    Photo illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty

    When Democrats won a trifecta in the 2020 election — control of both chambers of Congress and the White House — working-class advocates rejoiced. Their allies, including a devout pro-union chairman, would be at the helm. Visions of paid leave, organizing reforms and more employee-friendly initiatives seemed within reach.

    But one by one those dreams started to crumble.

    Throughout the lengthy, deeply negotiated process of drafting the Build Back Better (BBB) ​​bill — which essentially later became the Inflation Reduction Act — Democrats fought tooth and nail to include expanded paid parental and medical leave . But those proposals were scrapped before they were approved.

    The Democrats’ other sweeping labor package, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act), passed the House months ago. It would give workers more freedom to join a union and increase protection against management retaliation. But that too is stuck in the Senate.

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    And now, in their final days of joint control of the government before the Republicans officially take control of the House, the Democrats are actively undermining a major union’s contract negotiations. And there are serious doubts that they will be able to meet the key demand from affected railway workers: more paid sick leave.

    It is the era of labor policy that was not. And the political left is, unsurprisingly, unexcited.

    “There has been a divide between employers and employees in general over the past few decades, with employees having to fight incredibly hard for things that I believe should be basic human needs,” said Representative Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) , one of the leading progressives pushing for paid sick leave in a provisional railroad employment contract. “I hate that Congress had to come. But we did what we had to do.”

    On Wednesday, the House voted to send two separate bills to the Senate: one to avert the railroad strike altogether, and one to ensure railroad workers get seven days of paid sick leave. The bill to force a preliminary agreement between rail freight bosses and their employees passes by hand, with dozens of Republicans joining in.

    Senate Republicans are expected to largely support the deal, though some — such as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) — have indicated they would not vote against a bill that would not benefit workers. supports.

    

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<p>Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, DN.Y., are seen following a meeting on how to avoid a railroad workers’ strike with President Joe Biden at the White House on Nov. 1.  29, 2022.</p>
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<div class="inline-afbeelding__tegoed">Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images</div>
<p>” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/SECL2TWWVJavwTk5iRH8iA–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQ3MA–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/thedailybeast.com/021756193a313706a2036548f32″ /><noscript><img alt=Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, DN.Y., are seen following a meeting on how to avoid a railroad workers’ strike with President Joe Biden at the White House on Nov. 1. 29, 2022.

    Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

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    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, DN.Y., are seen following a meeting on how to avoid a railroad workers’ strike with President Joe Biden at the White House on Nov. 29, 2022.

    Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

    After a meeting between Biden and the so-called “four corners” of the congressional leadership Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “We need to pass a bill.”

    But the second bill to guarantee seven paid sick days only got three GOP votes in the House. That’s not the best sign for the bill’s prospects in the Senate, where it needs at least 60 votes to pass.

    Ahead of the December 9 TBEN for a deal, there are still questions about how Senate Democrats will proceed.

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    Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has vowed to force a vote on paid sick days. But despite Wednesday’s chaos, even he wasn’t sure if the bill would pass as two separate votes, an amendment to the original bill or some variation of it. But speaking to reporters, Sanders was sure that some sort of vote would take place.

    “I hope and expect that Congress will do the right thing and support the workers… Your question is, will we get that vote? Yes, we’re going to vote.”

    Other Democrats took a more reserved tone about the situation. They sympathize with the railway workers, but consider a possible strike too risky.

    

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<p>Activists in support of union workers protest outside the US Capitol Building on November 29, 2022 in Washington, DC.</p>
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<div class="inline-afbeelding__tegoed">Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images</div>
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    Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

    ” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/DH3EXlW8_ajZ1T44DFcBzQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQ3MA–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/thedailybeast.com/e696555883a34730aaae8c19a605 classe=” “caas-img”/>

    Activists in support of unionized railroad workers protest outside the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, DC, on November 29, 2022.

    Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

    “I am certainly very sympathetic to what labor is trying to get done. But I’m also committed to making sure we get a bill with the president,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) told reporters Wednesday.

    It’s an odd position for a party that prides itself on its pro-labor policies and often enjoys trade union recommendations. As unionizations began to seep through some of America’s largest companies — like Starbucks and Amazon in recent years — Democrats positioned themselves as allies.

    On the other hand, it is rare that a possible strike could have such a catastrophic effect on the nation.

    Failing to get a deal with railroad workers will cost the US economy about $2 billion a day to begin with. Supply chains will be destroyed. Supermarkets will experience shortages and pharmacies will experience delayed shipments of essential prescriptions. Water treatments will be delayed, leading to literal shitstorms in urban hubs that rely on fast-paced ins and outs of wastewater.

    And that would all come before the holidays, no less.

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    Biden himself said Monday: “As a proud pro-labor president, I am reluctant to override the ratification processes and positions of those who voted against the agreement. But in this case — where the economic impact of a shutdown would hurt millions — I think Congress should use its powers to pass this deal.”

    For months, Biden had stayed away from enforcing an agreement with railroad workers and was working with Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh on a deal. But over time, negotiations reportedly began to deteriorate.

    As a result of the decision to ask Congress to intervene, unions have expressed disappointment with the government they so consistently viewed as an ally. But Democrats remain somewhat coy about whether forcing a deal with railroad workers could have lasting consequences for their party’s standing with labor organizations. For example, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) would not say whether he is concerned about the potential breaches.

    Casey got into an elevator in the Senate basement and told The Daily Beast, “I’ll let the political commentators have their say on that.”

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