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Biden, Democrats May Play Strikebreaker

Politics makes strange bedfellows, as they say. And so it is that recent events could well cause Joe Biden, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and their fellow Democrats to take sides with the Republicans against organized labor.

The issue here is the massive railway strike that has been looming now for the better part of 6 months. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh was sent in to resolve the matter and, after a marathon bargaining session, everyone thought a deal had been hammered out. However, you can never be sure until the rank-and-file membership signs off. And while eight of the 12 unions involved in the negotiations gave their blessing, the other four said "no." So, too, have the railroads. Needless to say, when labor wants more and management wants more, that leaves no room for compromise. So, a strike could come as soon as Dec. 9, at least theoretically.

For the White House, however, a strike is a problem. A big problem. The economy still hasn't fully straightened itself out after the pandemic. And it the nation's trains stopped running on Dec. 9, then it would not be pretty. The first thing affected would be the energy markets. As you may have heard, that's already an Achilles' heel for this administration. Eventually, the whole holiday season would affected. Good luck getting that turkey from Minnesota or that package from New York or that tree from North Carolina if there are no trains running.

To that end, Biden wants to (preemptively) break the strike. That is to say, he wants Congress to exercise its authority to impose the settlement agreed to back in September. Pelosi is on board, and will bring the matter up for a vote today. Assuming it clears the House, which it presumably will, then Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will do his part. Republicans have been urging this course of action since October, so presumably they will vote in favor, or at least won't get in the way. That said, the House GOP Conference has quite a reputation for doing whatever they think will hurt the Democrats, and the Senate GOP conference isn't much better on that front. So, don't consider it a done deal until it's a done deal.

If Biden does succeed in imposing a deal, we will see what happens to his self-styled reputation as a "pro-labor president." Certainly, imposing a deal that two-thirds of the unions are OK with, and that management isn't happy about, is nowhere near as anti-labor as sending the troops in to break a strike (like, say, Calvin Coolidge and Grover Cleveland did). On the other hand, it's not exactly labor-friendly. That said, wrecking the U.S. economy right before Christmas would be disastrous for the White House, so this was surely an easy call, if an unpleasant one. (Z)

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