Six Republican senators voted to include seven additional days of paid sick leave for rail workers on a vote last Thursday. The vote represents a shift within the Republican party as it intensifies its support for working-class workers.
For the past months, rail workers unions have been in conflict with freight rail companies over worker contracts, demanding better conditions. Eight of the unions have accepted tentative agreements, however, four unions have not, leading to the possibility of a strike at a time when many Americans are traveling for the holidays.
Given the tragic economic effects of a strike during the busy holiday season, Congress decided to mandate a contract for the rail workers, a power they possess due to the Railway Labor Act of 1926. While Congress convincingly passed a mandated contract, there was a debate on whether or not to include an additional week of sick leave for rail workers.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) was one of the Republican senators to vote for including the seven days of sick leave in the contract. According to Hawley, the vote was a “great opportunity for Republicans to say we are for workers over and against all of these other people”.
The vote represents a growing shift in the Republican party, as it begins to be more outspoken about support for workers. Many attribute this shift in rhetoric as a product of President Trump’s advances he made with working-class voters.
Hawley believes that if the Republican party wants to win elections in the future, this shift towards economic populism is a vital one to make. Hawley said, “my feeling is that if the Republican Party is going to be a majority party in this country, we have to be for working people”.
Hawley’s adamance in guiding the Republican Party in a more populist direction, when asked whether he believed GOP leadership wanted the same shift as Hawley does, Hawley replied, “No”.
Hawley, nevertheless, has continued to preach the value in voicing support for workers as the GOP prepares to fight President Biden in 2024.“ We shouldn’t be the party that is defending the suits and defending the multinational corporations and defending the C-suite.”