Reported by Jules Roscoe for Vice.
Workers’ unions—one of President Biden’s most important voting blocs—are furious that he and Democrats in Congress have sold out freight rail workers by forcing unions to accept the Tentative Agreement they rejected in October. In the statement, Biden self-labels as a “proud pro-labor President,” and says he is “reluctant” to have to override the ratification process, but that he believes a full-on rail strike would be far too economically devastating for the country.
One of the top posts on Reddit over the past few days is a political poster of Biden styled like Barack Obama’s famous “HOPE” poster. “SCAB,” it says.
“A ‘pro-labor’ President would force the corporate bosses to take the workers’ deal, not the other way around,” Our Revolution, a pro-union political organization founded by Sen. Bernie Sanders, tweeted on Tuesday.
Starbucks Workers United, which represents over 250 unionized Starbucks stores, tweeted, “Pres. Biden forcing railroad workers to accept a deal they voted down is a betrayal of working class people. Siding with the bosses to deny workers paid sick leave and prevent a strike is not pro-labor.”
Workers across social media are angry with Biden’s handling of the rail strike. “If Congress forces a crap deal on the railroad workers they should all strike anyway,” one person wrote in a Reddit post. “Fuck the economy. Let the cargo on those trains rot.” Biden’s betrayal of workers is the main topic of conversation on r/antiwork, one of the most popular pro-worker forums on the internet.
“This inevitable nationwide railroad strike is NOT about money!” one worker told Motherboard in September. “It is about dignity and the balance of a fair work life. For every one day that I take off unpaid, it takes me 14 continuous working days to earn it back. Do that math. That is our so-called ‘sick time.’”
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, one of the largest freight worker unions in the world, issued a statement Tuesday afternoon. “The big rail carriers have already made it clear that they only care about making massive profits, not the safety and health of workers,” said Teamsters General President Sean M. O’Brien. “Why should rail executives and members of Congress have paid sick time, but rail workers don’t get a single paid sick day? If Congress is going to take over this process, they need to include paid sick days.”
“A worker should not be fired for going to the doctor. Yet it is 2022 and railroaders are fighting for sick leave in the richest country on Earth,” the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions in the country, said in a statement. “It is unacceptable when the vote for a contract is denied to the union membership. It is also a violation of the core democratic nature of unions and the membership’s right to vote.”
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