President Joe Biden is between a rock and a hard place with the looming and potentially disastrous national rail strike on the horizon. For the man who bills himself as the most pro-union chief executive in history, the consequences may be staggering.
The White House is desperate to avert a strike during the crucial holiday season. Further, Biden declared victory back in September when a deal brokered by the administration was tentatively reached.
That celebration turned out to be wildly premature.
Now the president is furiously backtracking on his former position of being all-in for unions. He knows the economic impact of a nationwide rail strike in December would be crippling to both the economy and public perception of his presidency.
In a statement, Biden declared that Congress must step in and “use its powers to adopt this deal.” A deal that has been flatly rejected by multiple rail unions.
In 1992, Senator Joe Biden voted AGAINST ending a major rail strike.
He argued that by intervening, Congress would be “rewarding” the railroad companies for years of bad faith negotiation.
Yesterday, President Biden asked Congress to intervene to prevent a rail strike. pic.twitter.com/eAq9mDzAwd
— More Perfect Union (@MorePerfectUS) November 29, 2022
But on Tuesday, Biden sat down with congressional leaders to discuss the pending crisis. After the gathering, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reported that Congress will take action to keep the trains running.
Lawmakers will reportedly impose the rejected September contract on unions representing 115,000 workers. The logic presented by Democrats is that as many as 765,000 Americans could be unemployed in just the first two weeks of the strike — with Christmas just around the corner.
Several labor movement leaders have already come out and criticized “the most pro-union president in history” for his actions to avert the strike. The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees said that it is “dangerous, it is unreasonable and unjust” to insist workers perform when sick.
A major sticking point in the tentative September deal was the lack of paid sick leave. Unions asked for 15 paid sick days but were countered in the agreement with just one personal day.
This flies directly in the face of the White House’s staunch support for organized labor as well as Biden’s personal credibility. For a president who kicked off his 2020 campaign with a Pennsylvania union hall rally, it is nothing more than abandoning principles for short-term gain.