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The GOP-Lite Conservative Wing Of The Democratic Party Is Stronger Than It Should Be

Jamaal Bowman: Why The Squad Voted For Biden's Railroad Bill



Biden wants to move the first phase of the Democrats’ presidential selection process out of Iowa— not a terrible idea— and into South Carolina— not a good idea. Democrats in Iowa (and New Hampshire) span the ideological spectrum. Democrats in South Carolina… not so much. South Carolina Democrats are mostly conservative, which is exactly why Biden has decided the party is going to try to make the move.


Although nationally Bernie won 23 state contests (to Hillary’s 34) and received 13,210,550 votes to her 16,917,853 (43% to her 55%), South Carolina was on another planet— Planet Conservative: South Carolina Democrats voted 272,379 (73%) to 96,498 (26%) for Hillary. She won every single county. In some of the most politically backward counties in the state the lopsided results looked like this:

  • Clarendon Co.- Hillary 90.9%, Bernie 8.6%

  • Allendale Co.- Hillary 90.8%, Bernie 8.4%

  • Bamberg Co.- Hillary 89.2%, Bernie 10.3%

  • Marlboro Co.- Hillary 89.0%, Bernie 10.5%

  • Orangeburg Co.- Hillary 88.6%, Bernie 11.0%

  • Williamsburg Co.- Hillary 88.5%, Bernie 10.7%

  • Hampton Co.- Hillary 88.0%, Bernie 11.0%

  • Lee Co.- Hillary 87.7%, Bernie 11.4%

  • Fairfield Co.- Hillary 87.5%, Bernie 11.8%

  • Barnwell Co.- Hillary 87.5%, Bernie 11.7%

  • Sumter Co.- Hillary 86.6%, Bernie 12.7%

  • Calhoun Co.- Hillary 86.1%, Bernie 13.5%

  • Jasper Co.- Hillary 85.1%, Bernie 13.8%

Not exactly representative of today’s Democratic Party. And 4 years later, while Biden was being laughed off stages as an also-ran, thanks to Jim Clyburn, South Carolina voters turned 5th place Biden into the frontrunner. Again, he won every county. Thankfully, New Hampshire will stand up to Biden and schedule their primary a week before whatever cockamamie plan Biden and Clyburn have cooked up to help a conservative candidate. New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan: "We’ve been through this before in the past with other states challenging our first-in-the-nation status. And we know we’ve always been able to maintain our position and this time around will be no different... New Hampshire will hold the first-in-the-nation primary, no matter what sanctions may be out there."



But that’s who Biden is— and always has been: a very conservative Democrat, the Joe Manchin of his day. Yesterday, the corporate media was positively giddy celebrating the passage of Biden’s union-busting bill. If America’s unions were serious they would have called a general strike today and shoved the bill up his ass.


You may recall that last year Seattle democratic socialist city council member Kshama Sawant beat back a well-financed (by Amazon and their executives executives) recall effort against her. They hate her because she was the moving force behind Seattle’s $15 minimum wage and the millionaires tax. Yesterday she wrote a scathing article for SocialistAlternative.org, slamming not just Biden but even the Squad for the union busting bill, which she noted is “a profound betrayal of working-class people.”


Her disappointment in the Squad is palpable. “When AOC and other members of the Squad,” she wrote “were first elected, most of them did so as self-identified democratic socialists. They ran on working-class platforms that included Medicare for All and a federal $15 minimum wage, vowing they would be accountable to working class and oppressed people. In the first year after Biden took office, with the Democrats in control of all three branches of government, Squad members abandoned the first two of these commitments, first refusing to force the vote on Medicare for All and then rejecting any sort of fight for the $15 minimum wage. Now the third of these promises has been utterly shattered, as all but one of the Squad members crossed the picket line and voted with a majority of both Democrats and Republicans in Congress to break the rail workers’ strike— cutting off those workers’ right to legally withdraw their labor. In doing so they took a clear side with the billionaire railroad bosses against rail workers who have suffered intolerable conditions over decades.”


Harsh. And she didn’t spare her own member of Congress, Pramila Jayapal. “The Squad and Congressional Progressive Caucus, including Rep. Pramila Jayapal, “ she wrote, “attempted to give themselves left cover by voting for a second bill that included the rail workers’ key demand for paid sick leave alongside the primary legislation to kill the strike. This sleight of hand should fool no one, however, as it was widely recognized that the sick leave bill would face a sudden death in the Senate (which it did the following day), and all that would be left would be a broken strike.”


Workers across four unions which together represent a majority of the workforce– the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transport Workers’ Transportation Division, the Brotherhood of Railway Signalmen, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees-Teamsters, and the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers– had rejected the proposed contract. But the votes of 80 U.S. Senators and 290 U.S. Representatives were enough to enforce the deal that the rail magnates wanted. This outcome was the one the bosses had counted on from the start, knowing that they hold both political parties in the palm of their hands.
The immense pressures that railroad workers are under, following years of staffing cuts, have been well documented. Yet President Biden claimed, with practiced hypocrisy, to be acting on behalf of the millions of workers who might be harmed if this strike went ahead.
Despite the fact that retailers’ shelves are already stocked for Christmas, the Democrats have implied that the needs of other workers to “enjoy their holidays” supersedes the needs of rail workers to have any control over their lives, families, or health. But this logic is totally backwards. A win for rail workers would have been a win for workers all over the U.S. who are increasingly ground down by overwork, and by the knowledge that they are living to work, not working to live.
After today’s vote, a retired rail worker and union officer wrote this:
“It’s not just money. It’s quality of life. The press has you think that a 25% raise over 5 years is a lot. It’s not, not when inflation is between 8 and 10% a year. It’s not even breaking even. But the bigger issue is quality of life.
“Freight railroads operate 24/7/365. Almost all train employees work on call, with only 2 hours or less notice before going to work, not including travel time. With the massive cutbacks over the past period, everyone has to live by the phone. It is not unusual for employees at some railroads to work 3 or more weeks without any real time off from the job other than the federally mandated rest periods between shifts (most of which was time spent sleeping). Disciplinary charges, meaning suspensions without pay were given to a lot of employees. In some cases, they were even denied the ability to attend family funerals under threats of suspension and/or dismissal. This is why the employees are fighting this time around. Enough is enough.”
This is the context for Biden’s negotiated TA (tentative agreement), wherein the sole improvement was a single paid personal day which was itself undermined by absurd conditions: that it could only be on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday and would have to be scheduled 30 days in advance.
Despite calls by some on the left for an illegal wildcat strike, the absolute failure of the union leaders to mobilize or prepare for strike action now makes this an extremely difficult option for their members, despite the blazing anger of thousands of workers at this brutal attack on their rights. The union leaders preferred instead to rely on the tried-and-failed strategy of begging Democratic Party politicians to come to their defense.
It is of course not ruled out that rail workers will take independent action in the face of yesterday’s betrayal, in which case Socialist Alternative and my office will be there every step of the way to support them. Successfully carrying out wildcat action on the scale necessary would require that independent and democratic organizing structures are immediately set up, strike leaders are elected across the various locals, and a strike fund be established and built rapidly.
When it became clear that Congress would be asked to intervene to prevent a strike, Bernie Sanders looked for procedural ways to soften the blow of this defeat on workers. His solution was to include an amendment giving workers seven days of paid sick time— a little under half of workers’ original demand. To his credit, Bernie was quite clear from the beginning that without this addition he would not vote to impose the TA, and when his amendment failed, he voted “no.”
It’s utterly shameful that the same cannot be said of AOC and the majority of the Squad in the House— all but one of whom voted to crush the strike.
AOC justified her vote by claiming she was fighting “tooth and nail” for the additional sick days. Jamaal Bowman claimed he was “always fighting in solidarity with the workers.” But what the Congressional “Progressive” Caucus pulled was a con job, and a hamfisted one at that. They colluded with Pelosi to separate out the vote into two, promising their roughly 100 votes on the rotten TA in exchange for a separate vote on the sick day amendment, which they knew full well would get crushed in the Senate. It took only one day to confirm the brutal reality: that the majority of the Squad, in coordination with the leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, sold rail workers down the river while blowing smoke about paid sick days.
…A socialist cannot be a strike breaker. This needs to be the end of any pretense by DSA that the Squad is socialist, and should result in their expulsion from the organization. Failing that, the Squad’s betrayal of the working class becomes DSA’s betrayal.
The danger inherent in this sellout, beyond the obvious quality-of-life damage to rail workers themselves, is that it will drive working people into the arms of the right wing who can posture as the working-class political alternative to the Democrats. The fact that more Republican senators voted against imposing the TA than Democrats is stunning proof of this.
The task of building a left-wing, working-class alternative to the “progressive” politics of the big business Democratic Party has never been more urgent than it is today.

Writing to his supporters today, Bernie called yesterday both a victory and a defeat on the floor of the Senate. “The good news is that we took on the incredible greed of the railroad corporations and managed to get every Democrat (except Joe Manchin) and six Republicans to vote to secure paid sick leave for rail workers. The bad news is that, because of the absurd rules of the Senate, despite having a majority of senators we needed 60 votes to pass the amendment. (The House had passed it the day before.) With the failure of the Senate to pass my amendment on paid sick leave, I voted against final passage of the bill. Let me be clear. This struggle for justice for rail workers is not over. At a time of record-breaking profits for the rail industry, it is disgraceful that workers there do not have one single day of paid sick leave. As a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, I will do everything I can to make sure that rail workers in America are treated with dignity and respect. They deserve that benefit as does every worker in our country.”


The American people are increasingly disgusted by the outrageous level of corporate greed they are seeing. While working families are struggling to keep their heads above water, we are seeing unprecedented income and wealth inequality and soaring corporate profits. While the rich get richer everyone else struggles. There is no better example of that greed and that reality than what is occurring in the railway industry.
The rail industry has seen huge, record-breaking profits in recent years. In the first three quarters of this year, the rail industry made $21 billion in profits. Further, the profits are so high that the industry spent $25 billion this year not to improve rail safety or address the supply chain crisis. No. They spent $25 billion to buy back its own stocks and hand out huge dividends to its wealthy stockholders.
Since 2010 the rail industry has spent over $183 billion on stock buybacks and dividends. On top of all of that, the CEOs of many of these railway companies are enjoying huge compensation packages. While workers struggle, last year the CEO of CSX made over $20 million in total compensation. The CEOs of Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern made over $14 million each.
In other words, in the railway industry corporate profits are soaring and CEOs have never had it so good. But, in the midst of all of that, what is going on for the workers?
Right now, if you are a rail worker– and this is a job that is hard and dangerous– you are entitled to a grand total of zero sick days. Let me repeat that. You are entitled to ZERO sick days if you work in the freight rail industry.
What this means is that if you get sick, or if your child or your spouse gets sick and you need to take time off of work, not only will you not get paid, you will get reprimanded and could get fired.
What the freight rail industry is saying to its workers is that it doesn't matter if you have COVID, or if you're lying in a hospital bed because of an emergency. If you do not come into work no matter what the reason, the rail industry wants the right to punish you or even fire you.
It is hard to believe these conditions still exist in America in the year 2022.
At a time when the railroads made over $21 billion in profits so far this year it turns out that guaranteeing 7 paid sick days to workers would cost the industry $321 million a year. That is less than 2 percent of their overall annual profits. This is what greed is all about.
The United States, sadly, is the only major country on Earth that doesn't guarantee paid sick days. Pathetic. In a modern civilized society, it should be a no- brainer that if you or your family gets sick, you should have paid sick leave. End of discussion.
As Congress ends this session, it is clear that we have an enormous amount of work in front of us next year. Not only do we have to address the situation in the rail industry, not only do we have to guarantee paid sick leave to all Americans, we must move forward to create an economy that works for all, and not just the few. It is not acceptable that 60 percent of American workers live paycheck to paycheck, that 85 million are uninsured or underinsured, that parents cannot afford childcare, that young people cannot attend college because of the cost and that almost 600,000 of our people are homeless. It is clearly imperative that we address the existential threat of climate change.
Bottom line. There is an enormous amount of work to be done. Let’s do it together.

I asked one of the progressive senators who voted NO after Bernie’s amendment failed— something the members of the House didn’t have the luxury of deciding whether to do or not— what he thought of Sawant’s broadside against the Squad. “I understand that expectations are very high regarding them,” he wrote last night, “but I don’t see why they should be held to a different standard as all the other Democrats. It’s a betrayal by almost everyone, not just the Squad. Undoubtedly, the whole leadership told everyone that if they didn’t pass the bill, the entire country would blame them, the unions and Biden for every split hair and stubbed toe for the next two years, so they had ‘no choice.’ Some people find that argument persuasive, and some don’t... If you asked most Labour Party members in the UK 'why is Tony Blair the only Labour leader to win an election in the roughly last 50 years?' most would say 'because people hate strikes.' But I oppose forced labor agreements in principle; I don’t care how the GOP would spin it."


Jamaal Bowman, a Squad member, took to Twitter to explain what he was thinking. I'll put it in narrative form here. Bowman: "Yesterday, Senate Republicans and their pal Joe Manchin voted to deny rail workers paid sick leave. I am heartbroken, angry, and disgusted. I want to share some thoughts about how we got here and what happens next. Rail companies have ruthlessly cut jobs and squeezed their remaining workers-- while their oligarchs make obscene profits. Meanwhile the rail workers can’t even get basic paid sick leave. Under these conditions, workers cannot live full lives. Under the Railway Labor Act, Congress can intervene in a contract dispute like this and impose terms to stop a rail strike. Congress should not have that power. It violates workers’ rights and undermines the bargaining process, allowing the rail barons to act with impunity. So President Biden and Congressional leadership were wrong to interfere in the first place, they were wrong to take away workers’ right to strike, and they were wrong to push for a deal that a majority of workers had rejected-- containing zero paid sick leave. Unfortunately, leadership had more than enough votes to pass the bad deal, known as the "Tentative Agreement" (TA). And since it would be sure to pass by itself, rail unions asked us to fight for them by adding their key demand: at least 7 days of paid sick leave. We had to act quickly, and we did. Responding to an amendment that I offered, in partnership with six of my colleagues, Speaker Pelosi agreed to allow a vote on the 7 paid sick days. This would happen through an unusual two-step Congressional procedure called an “enrollment correction.” First, we would vote on enacting the TA. In a second, linked vote, we would "correct" the TA by adding the 7 paid sick days. For this to work, both votes needed to succeed. After this last-minute change, my focus was on making sure that we sent 7 paid sick days to the Senate. So in consultation with rail unions, I voted yes on both steps to fight for the sick days. And I'm proud that I led that organizing effort in the House. We had a real shot at 60 Senate votes. Thanks to Bernie Sanders lone efforts, 6 Republican Senators voted yes. But Manchin and 42 Rs chose to deny that workers have basic human rights. So in the end, Congress imposed a rejected contract against the will of some 60,000 workers. President Biden must now use his executive authority to right this wrong. If he won’t veto the bill, he must give workers the paid sick leave they deserve. But that is only a first step. And from there, we need to do more to win back the trust of working people. If Democrats fail to stand up for workers, and if we tolerate corporate greed, we will not be able to stop the fascists in the Republican party from destroying our country and planet. As elected progressives, as unions, as grassroots organizers, we must be well prepared for these moments of struggle. We must deepen how we organize together on a consistent basis, and aim to win. We need to up our collective game. And I know we will."


Listen to Mayo Pete's consultant-robot bullshit, the crap they teach at McKinsey. Jake Tapper knew how to handle this POS. Pete Buttigieg makes me sick and the Democratic establishment wants to make him president. I hope if there's a general strike someday, they call it the Mayo Pete General Strike:



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