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Massachusetts labor unions critical of Biden, Congress ending railroad strike

A month after Congress and President Joe Biden ended a potential railroad strike, a coalition of over sixty public and private labor unions are voicing their opposition to the deal. Delegates from the Western Mass Area Labor Federation (WMALF), which claims to represent 60,000 workers in the region, voted unanimously to pass a resolution critical of Congress and Biden.

The resolution, uploaded to the WMALF’s Facebook page, reiterated its support for railroad workers “who are still denied basic benefits such as reasonable schedules and paid sick days.”

It stated the union coalition condemns “in the strongest possible terms President Biden’s strike-breaking of U.S. railroad unions” and “strike-breaking legislation” passed by Congress. The resolution called the right to strike “a fundamental human right” and said that the deal brokered by Congress and Biden “serves the interests of the bosses over the interests of the working class and should be deemed illegitimate.”

It went on to claim Biden “has overruled the democratic vote of the railroad workers and sided with the billionaire railroad company owners.” The resolution specifically pointed out unions’ disappointment after investing time and money in the Democratic Party, “Many unions invest more time and money in lobbying and supporting Democratic candidates … That strategy has delivered dismal results, as 4 decades of continuous corporate assaults on the working class have only further weakened unions.”

Jeff Jones, WMALF’s president, called the political posturing surrounding the deal “baffling.” He said, “What led anyone to believe that the railroad workers were going to accept this contract, after three years, were going to accept this contract with no sick days provided- I just, I do not understand that,” Jones added, “And for people to come out and hail like, hey, we have a mediated agreement and we’ve averted a labor situation, and then to actually read what’s in the agreement is, to me, is just baffling.”

WMALF’s criticism is not isolated; other labor unions have also publicly questioned Biden’s call to Congress to end the railroad strike.

Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen President Michael Baldwin, when asked whether Biden let the unions down, said, “Yes, to some extent.”

A treasurer for an activist caucus group Railroad Workers United, Hugh Sawyer, noted, “Joe Biden blew it … Sadly, he could not bring himself to advocate for a lousy handful of sick days.”

In addition to criticism from some labor unions, Biden’s handling of the railroad strike was also criticized by politicians from both major parties. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Marco Rubio agreed that railroad workers should dictate the deal’s terms and that union bosses should consider workers’ demands for more paid sick days.

Spencer Irvine

Spencer Irvine is Senior Writer & Researcher at Americans for Fair Treatment, a community of current and former public-sector employees offering resources and support to exercise their First Amendment rights. Spencer previously worked in state government, in communications for a non-profit advocacy organization, and held various administrative and communications roles at a media analysis organization. He has a master’s degree in public administration from George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Brigham Young University. He lives in Arizona with his wife, is an avid history buff and enjoys touring historic sites.