27 December 2022

A defining failure

It is now three and a half weeks since Congress passed legislation robbing American railway workers of their right to strike and forcing them to accept a contract the membership of four unions had rejected, mainly because it doesn't give them paid sick leave, a right which most US workers take for granted (and which is government-guaranteed in civilized countries).  The next day Congress narrowly failed to pass an addendum granting the leave.  Since then, the ball has been squarely in Biden's court.  He could fix the situation with an executive order; it's indisputable that he has the authority to do that, since Obama took a similar action for other groups of workers in 2015.

Rail workers and allies have held rallies calling on Biden to take this actionOver seventy members of Congress have echoed the demand.  Yet despite claiming that he wants to continue the fight for the workers' paid sick leave, he has still not taken this simple and straightforward action which could accomplish that very thing.

The workers have rightfully responded with fury to this betrayal.  There are other ongoing problems, such as dangerous working conditions caused by cutting train crews to the bone.  There's been talk of mass resignations once the back pay promised by the new contract comes through, crippling rail transport and sending shock waves through the economy -- the very thing Congress supposedly was preventing when it kowtowed to the hedge funds that own the railways and ordered the workers not to strike.

The refusal to take such an easy action to resolve such a basic issue of minimal justice for American workers is, obviously, the defining failure of Biden's presidency.  But it's more than that.  It's a defining failure of the American left as a whole.

During this three and a half weeks, the left-wing internet has mostly ignored the issue.  The honorable exceptions have been few indeed.  Among the blogs, Angry Bear and Bruce Gerencser gave it some serious coverage (despite the latter not even being politics-focused).  Daily Kos ran a few posts -- much fewer than it dedicates to even the most trivial antics of politicians -- but quickly dropped the topic.  Common Dreams and The Lever did better.  Most left-wing blogs completely ignored the issue and the left media as a whole grossly under-reported it, and has now stopped covering it at all.

Among political leaders, too, there have been honorable exceptions, notably Bernie Sanders, who has fought hard on this.  But as soon as the vote for the paid-sick-leave addendum failed in the Senate, the majority of Congress just dropped the issue and moved on.  There was no determination to keep fighting for something that, a generation or two ago, everyone would have understood is exactly the kind of issue that the left exists for.

Morally, the workers now have every right to go out on strike even though the craven and immoral legislation Congress passed would make it "illegal".  As it is, it seems more likely that there will just be a steady flow of workers quitting until the railway system grinds to a halt.  They certainly have no obligation to a government that betrayed them and a country that would not stand up for them.

And ultimately this goes beyond the railways.  After decades in retreat, unions are growing again as the US economy degenerates into ever-worse exploitation and obscene disparities of wealth.  And they've now been shown that they must rely on themselves and each other -- they can't depend on Congress or a Democratic president or a distracted and befuddled left.  The time may yet come when all of those worthies are reminded who holds the real power in an industrial economy.


Blogger Richard said...

I don't see why they cant have sick leave. I dont understand why we dont use our railways more.

28 December, 2022 19:04  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

I don't understand why Biden doesn't fix this when he could so easily do so.

Why would people use railways when Southwest Airlines does such a great job moving people around?

28 December, 2022 21:06  
Blogger run75441 said...


Is there a facetious alert on Southwest?

We left Denver via AA which is right next to Southwest at the airport. The AA people were telling us how bad it was the day before.

Glad we are home.

31 December, 2022 08:31  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Yes, I assumed my sarcasm was obvious :-) Really disappointing how Southwest has apparently gone downhill. I used to fly with them as a first choice domestically.

I bet it's nice to be home. I would hate traveling in December, even without snowstorms.

31 December, 2022 09:03  

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