After a period of silence, progressive members of Congress began to push back Tuesday as President Joe Biden and Democratic leaders moved ahead with plans to approve legislation that would prevent a nationwide rail strike by forcing workers to accept a contract deal without any paid sick days.
The president's endorsement of congressional action—and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) subsequent vowto swiftly bring legislation to the floor—sparked a furious response from rank-and-file rail union members, a majority of whom voted to reject the White House-brokered contract agreement that Biden and lawmakers are now trying to impose on workers, denying them the right to strike and stripping them of any leverage to negotiate a better deal.
As of this writing, a relatively small number of Democrats in Congress have publicly spoken out about the White House's position and the fast-approaching vote on rail legislation. Pelosi, who has described the Democratic Party as "the party of workers and workers' rights," told reporters on Tuesday that a bill could hit the floor as early as 9:00 am ET Wednesday.
It's unclear whether progressive House members will mount an effort to improve the tentative agreement by adding paid sick days—a central, longstanding demand of rail workers. Pelosi said the bill will seek to impose the tentative contract agreement "with no poison pills or changes to the negotiated terms."
"Last year, the rail industry made a record-breaking $20 billion in profits. They can afford to give their workers paid sick leave," Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) wrote on social media Tuesday. "The rail industry must put the quality of life of their employees over profits. I stand with rail workers."
Rep. Marie Newman (D-Ill.), who lost her Democratic primary race in June, tweeted Tuesday that "paid leave should be the bare minimum."
"Good Lord, this is the U.S., not a third world country," Newman wrote. "Paid leave has to be part of the deal. Period."
Another Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) member, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), asked, "Why wouldn't the rail companies just allow workers to have paid sick days?"
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