Under pressure from President Biden, Speaker Pelosi said that House lawmakers will take up legislation on Wednesday to stop a nationwide strike by railroad workers by imposing a proposed contract that members at four railroad unions had rejected, saying Congress needs to intervene to prevent devastating job losses.
“I don’t like going against the ability of unions to strike, but weighing the equities, we must avoid a strike. Jobs will be lost, even union jobs will be lost, water will not be safe, product will not be going to market,” she said.
Both sides in the negotiations had agreed to a cooling-off period until Dec. 9 with the sticking points involving work schedules and paid sick time.
As The Wall Street Journal reports, under the Railway Labor Act, Congress can make both sides accept an agreement that their members have voted down.
As you would expect some Democrats are hesitant to bite the hand that feeds them and tell labor unions what to do; and some union leaders have already expressed their ire at the intervention.
“We’ve made it clear we wanted this process to play out, and we even asked Congress not to intervene in this process because by doing that, it takes away any leverage we have with the industry,” said Michael Baldwin, president of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen.
Michael Paul Lindsey, a locomotive engineer in Idaho and steering committee member for Railroad Workers United, told Insider it was a “blatant betrayal,” but he wasn’t surprised.
“I thought it was kind of laughable that anyone would think that either the Democrats or the Republicans actually cared. Bottom line, they care about money,” he said.
Even so, “there was always that hope in the back of my mind that maybe someone would do something that was actually right for the American worker for once — instead of just what’s right for corporate America.”
Republicans have traditionally philosophically-opposed government intervention into private contractual obligations, and Senator Marco Rubio has vociferously defended the workers’ rights:
“Just because Congress has the authority to impose a heavy-handed solution does not mean we should,” he said.
“It is wrong for the Biden administration, which has failed to fight for workers, to ask Congress to impose a deal the workers themselves have rejected.”
We will see tomorrow if Pelosi really does have the votes she claims to pass this bill.