Joe Biden and Marty Walsh at the White House

U.S. President Joe Biden with United States Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh and United States Deputy Secretary of Labor Julie Su exits the Oval Office for remarks in the Rose Garden of the White House on Thursday September 15, 2022. (Photo: Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Shame on "Union Joe" Biden for Not Siding With Railway Workers

If rail workers are so important to our economy that a single week of striking could cost the economy $1 billion, and if their demands are so modest that any decent employer would easily exceed them, then meeting their demands seems like the obvious solution.

First of all--solidarity from our union shop to the rail workers who intend (if they can) to strike next week, whose demand for four days of paid sick leave per year is one that should not have to be begged for, much less go unmet. History will not look kindly on President Jon Biden and congressional leaders forcing a contract on rail workers that includes no sick leave during the pandemic that Biden irresponsibly declared is over, which continues to kill hundreds of Americans a day, to avoid a shutdown of supply chains before the holidays.

The American balance of power is such that railroad bosses have the allegedly most pro-labor president in history doing their dirty work for them.

If rail workers are so important to our economy that a single week of striking could cost the economy $1 billion, and if their demands are so modest that any decent employer would easily exceed them, then meeting their demands seems like the obvious solution. But the American balance of power is such that railroad bosses have the allegedly most pro-labor president in history doing their dirty work for them.

It is a profound shame that Biden has failed to model respecting the workers who take on grueling shifts and high risks to perform essential services. Rail workers should not have to sacrifice their health for the economy and the corporations that profit from their work. And Congress should not use its formidable power to coerce workers to accept unsafe and unjust terms of work, doubling down on corporate bosses' profit-seeking and willful neglect. The House will vote Wednesday on two versions of legislation that would enforce a contract on rail workers: one which would add sick days and one which would not.

As one rail union declared Tuesday: "Passing legislation to adopt tentative agreements that exclude paid sick leave for Railroad Workers will not address rail service issues. Rather, it will worsen supply chain issues and further sicken, infuriate, and disenfranchise Railroad Workers as they continue shouldering the burdens of the railroads' mismanagement. 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," the union's statement continued. "There must be a change."

Congress has undue authority here to impose specific terms of work on rail workers. This means that Congress also has the authority to impose a fairer, safer contract than was previously negotiated, providing workers with the paid sick leave that their profit-seeking bosses would deny them. It would be unconscionable for Congress to choose to use this power to reinscribe unsafe and unfair working conditions on the workers who keep our domestic supply chains afloat.