Democrats sided against labor this week in a stunning move, undermining three years of negotiations between rail workers and management.
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This week, President Joe Biden and Democrats in the House and Senate opted to force unpopular contracts on four rail unions whose members had previously rejected the terms in order to prevent a strike.
"It was tough for me but it was the right thing to do at the moment -- save jobs, to protect millions of working families from harm and disruption and to keep supply chains stable around the holidays," the president said of his decision.
As Ross Grooters noted in JACOBIN, the move ended three years of negotiations and preemptively broke the nation’s first national rail stoppage in three decades. Congress had the authority to impose the labor agreement on rail workers and management thanks to a 1926 law called the Railway Labor Act. The new contract that will take effect includes pay increases over five years and five lump-sum payments, but no paid sick days. The unions had asked for 15 and management offered one.
Conscious of appearances, Democratic lawmakers also voted on a separate measure to give the rail workers seven days of paid sick leave, but because it was not tied to the strikebreaking, it predictably died in the Senate. The separation of the measures into two votes came following the urging of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business lobby. Following the vote, the Chamber was crowing about its work.
It is a maneuver we have seen before. When the House separated the conservative bipartisan infrastructure bill from the larger Build Back Better spending package that included climate funding, it doomed the latter while allowing Democrats to blame Republicans and lament its failure.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Democratic leadership in the House, the Senate, and the White House have made clear that economic stewardship is their biggest priority — even over public health and labor considerations. That is why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s emergency temporary standards never extended to every workplace despite an early draft of those standards acknowledging that the threat of COVID indeed reached that far. And it is why Democratic leaders and public health officials are not doing more to raise awareness about long COVID, which vaccines do not fully protect against, and the serious health complications that have been linked to prior infection — stroke, heart problems, neurological damage, diabetes, etc.
The big goal is economic normalcy.
For more on the rail strike and labor, check out these stories from OptOut participating outlets.
THE LEVER analyzed how much paid sick days for rail workers would cost.
THE MAJORITY REPORT explained how House progressive votes came down.
THE RATIONAL NATIONAL did a segment on CNN’s Jake Tapper grilling Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg over the rail workers being denied paid sick leave.
JACOBIN wrote about the dysfunctional state of the National Labor Relations Board.
The unchecked influence of big money in politics is an existential threat to American democracy and one of the major issues of our time. OptOut participating outlets do some of the best money-in-politics reporting around!
THE INTERCEPT tracked fossil fuel spending on the Georgia Senate runoff on behalf of Republican candidate Herschel Walker.
THE CENTER FOR MEDIA AND DEMOCRACY (CMD) exposed the American Legislative Exchange Council, a Koch-backed, corporate nonprofit that provides model pro-business legislation the lawmakers, for overstating the number of legislators who are members.
CMD also had a piece exposing Charles Koch’s funding of educational institutions across the country and around the world.
MATT STOLLER’S BIG put out a story on how government contractors are renting access to our national parks back to the public.
DRILLED covered the return of the coal lobby and "old school" climate denial.
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LAW ENFORCEMENT PROBLEMS
THE APPEAL put out a shocking story this week about how San Francisco police are seeking authorization to use robots to kill people and what it could mean for departments around the country.
THE APPEAL published another piece about the troubling implications of New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ directive to remove homeless individuals exhibiting signs of mental illness from the streets.
THE KANSAS REFLECTOR released an article this week about how Wichita Police had spent $150,000 on legal fees, defending the department’s use of a gang list.
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HATE IN AMERICA
Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover has shined a spotlight on prejudice in the U.S. In the Musk Era, the platform has seen an explosion of vitriol and hate. Kanye West went on Alex Jones’ InfoWars this week along with white nationalist Nick Fuentes and proceeded to have a metldown in which he repeatedly expressed his appreciation for Nazis and Adolf Hitler. West, who had been welcomed back onto Twitter by Musk, was suspended finally following the appearance.
POWER REPORT broke down the absolutely bonkers InfoWars segment with West and Fuentes.
Musk didn’t conjure these forces by himself. Republican politicians have stoked racial resentment for decades.
THE NATION published a critical story about Republican rhetoric.