The Senate voted Thursday to advance a labor agreement to avert a rail strike—but not give workers needed paid sick leave.
The Senate voted 80-15 to advance a labor agreement brokered by President Joe Biden. The agreement is to be imposed on about 115,000 rail workers across the country. The Senate also voted 52-43 rejecting a measure to add seven paid sick leave days to the agreement. One Democrat, Joe Manchin, and 42 Republicans voted against. Rail workers currently have no paid sick days.
On Wednesday, the House overwhelmingly passed the labor agreement, but narrowly passed the measure to add the sick leave days to the deal. In between the House and Senate vote, Biden refused to whip momentum up for the measure, choosing instead to focus on the success of the labor deal he arranged.
Now, the agreement—without the sick leave provision—goes to the White House, where Biden is expected to sign it.
The paid sick leave measure, given to Biden on a platter by progressives, offered the president a second chance at getting it right for rail workers. But Biden did not express his support for the bill or engage with the notion that perhaps the best way to avert a strike is to address demands that prompted the threat in the first place.
The government’s failure to finally give rail workers paid sick days is disgraceful. More disgraceful is how Biden allowed, and even encouraged, such a failure to occur. He could have used the bully pulpit, and the momentum generated by workers and committed members of his caucus, to harden his supposed legacy as among the most pro-worker presidents.
Unfortunately, today’s outcome reveals that “Union Joe” may just be another hollow moniker. Given that a majority of rail workers have rejected Biden’s now-passed tentative agreement, it’s not necessarily guaranteed his lackluster deal will stop a strike anyways.