Joe Biden’s betrayal of railworkers is a case study in everything that’s wrong with the Democratic Party: a party that talks about workers’ rights while governing in the interests of capital.

by Luke Savage, Jacobin

Earlier this week, the Biden White House issued a statement of thanks to Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives who had just voted to impose a contract without sick days on railworkers and override their right to strike. Running less than 150 words, the press release revealingly made no mention of the other House vote — to include seven of those very sick days in the same deal — that had just taken place. Subsequently confronted over the omission, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre offered the verbal equivalent of a shrug. “The president,” she said, “supports paid sick leave for rail workers. But he understands there are not sixty votes. Right? There are not sixty votes in the Senate to make that happen.”

Roughly twenty-four hours later, the initiative duly died its expected death and fell eight votes short of the necessary threshold. Parallel legislation to impose a contract on railworkers meanwhile passed by a whopping margin of eighty to fifteen. Never let anyone tell you that bipartisanship is dead.

Former vice-president Joe Biden formally launches his 2020 presidential campaign during a rally May 18, 2019, at Eakins Oval in Philadelphia.

As Joe Biden’s various statements illustrate, the line from senior Democrats leading up to yesterday’s critical Senate vote was a classic Democratic sleight of hand. From labor and transportation secretaries Marty Walsh and Pete Buttigieg to outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, powerful Democrats have lazily gestured in the direction of support for the insertion of paid sick time into the deal while variously buck-passing, rhetorically spinning their wheels, or refusing to comment altogether. The act was hardly convincing but clearly served its intended purpose. By declaring their nominal endorsement of the rail unions’ key demand while simultaneously doing the bidding of the US Chamber of Commerce in working to prevent a strike at all costs, Democratic leaders, as ever, got to have their cake and eat it too.

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