Economics/Class Relations

Expert weighs in on Biden screwing rail workers

Episode 101 with Jonah Furman

Well, we know the worth of all the statements, tweets, promises, and platforms the Democratic Party has churned out in recent years, through unprecedented challenges for the American workforce and in a time of unprecedented profit and power for American bosses. None of those things are, to this White House, worth more than upholding the Senate’s recent decision that a strike should be made illegal.

In a recent piece for Jacobin, past KK&F guest Luke Savage quotes White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre’s “shrug” of a response to the vote outcome:

The president supports paid sick leave for rail workers. But he understands there are not sixty votes. Right? There are not sixty votes in the Senate to make that happen.

One common theme in our conversations at KK&F — which has been around just a few weeks longer than the Biden presidency, letting us follow and comment on Biden’s methods of governance from the very beginning — has been the way that this White House denies its access to certain forms of presidential power when it could benefit working people most. We’ve compared Democrats’ and Republicans’ willingness to avail themselves of measures and roles like executive orders, parliamentarians, and so on in order to get things done. Well, it’s arguably a pretty powerful move on the government’s behalf to shut down a potential strike on behalf of capital, knowing that the workers involved are being denied paid sick leave. Where, from the party that claims it represents the interests of labor, is the opposite, equally powerful move to get the votes, push through a different plan, seek out other options like nationalizing rail corporations?

Instead, we’ve gotten the equivalent of hands thrown up in the air while both parties come to an agreement that will make key jobs more unlivable and unsafe for the people working them. What does this latest development in Biden’s relationship with the labor movement tell us about where the Democratic Party is at right now? What can we expect from the remaining period of his leadership? We’re asking the big questions with our return guest, labor reporter Jonah Furman, on the latest episode of KK&F. As always, we’re grateful to you for joining us and tuning in. Remember that you can listen to this episode as a podcast when it’s released tomorrow on Apple Podcasts, Pandora, Spotify, and more.

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