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Tag: Joe Biden

Is Joe Biden the Pro-Labor President?

rail workers

By Jake Johnson, Common Dreams

Rank-and-file rail workers voiced frustration and anger late Monday after Joe Biden—a self-described “pro-labor president”—urged Congress to pass legislation forcing unions to accept a contract agreement without any paid sick days, a step that would avert a looming nationwide strike and deliver a win for the profitable railroad industry.

“By forcing workers into an agreement which doesn’t address basic needs like healthcare and sick time, President Joe Biden is choosing railroads over workers and the economy,” said Ross Grooters, an engineer and co-chair of Railroad Workers United, an inter-union alliance that supports public ownership of the national rail system.

Another worker was more blunt in a text message to labor reporter Jonah Furman: “Words cannot express how fucking livid I am at this administration… people in power, LIKE HIM, would rather screw workers than stand up to fucking robber barons.”

While Congress could put forth legislation that would improve the tentative White House-brokered contract deal announced in September, Biden made clear he wants lawmakers “to pass legislation immediately to adopt the tentative agreement between railroad workers and operators—without any modifications or delay—to avert a potentially crippling national rail shutdown.”

That agreement, which has been rejected by more than half of the country’s unionized rail workforce, does not include a single day of paid sick leave and would only allow three penalty-free days off per year for medical visits. But even that time off is heavily constrained: It’s unpaid; can only be taken on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday; and must be scheduled at least 30 days in advance.

“These agreements were rejected because the quality of life rail workers and their families have today is abysmal,” Ash Anderson, a member of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division (BMWED)—one of the unions that voted against ratifying the tentative deal—wrote on Facebook. “There were no provisions to improve the quality of life for rail workers, who continue to be exploited by companies that are earning record-breaking profits while their service suffers and they cut their workforce to the bone.”

Anderson continued:

I just want Americans to see the stories of these men and women, the stories of their families. I want Americans to recognize that these workers are being driven out of their chosen profession by the continued harsh conditions, callous discipline, long hours far from home, and basic lack of respect and dignity in the work that President Biden just stated was too important to allow to stop, regardless the cost.

The railroads’ record profit margins are safe, their exorbitant stock buybacks and shareholder returns are secured. Americans will have all the conveniences available this busy shopping season. Rail workers will work sick to make sure it’s all done, because that’s what they have to do.

Shortly following Biden’s statement, outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced her chamber will move this week to take up legislation requiring rail workers to accept the tentative deal and denying them their right to strike. Without a contract deal or congressional action, a strike could begin early next month.

Echoing Biden, Pelosi insisted that lawmakers are “reluctant to bypass the standard ratification process” and declared that “we must recognize that railroads have been selling out to Wall Street to boost their bottom lines, making obscene profits while demanding more and more from railroad workers.”

“But,” the Democratic leader added, “we must act to prevent a catastrophic nationwide rail strike, which would grind our economy to a halt.”

The White House’s intervention answers the call of rail giants and corporate lobbying groups—including the powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce—that have been pushing for and banking on congressional action as contract talks remain at a standstill, with rail companies refusing to drop their opposition to workers’ basic sick leave demands.

Rail unions had originally pushed for 15 days of paid sick leave, a policy that rail companies estimated would cost around $688 million a year—less than what billionaire Warren Buffett, the CEO of BNSF Railway’s parent company, added to his net worth in a single day last week.

The unions have since moved down to asking for four paid sick days, but rail companies remain opposed even as they rake in huge profits and enrich their executives and shareholders. The Lever reported in September that “the CEOs of five of the largest railroad conglomerates have been paid more than $200 million in the last three years, and company shareholders have been boosted by nearly $200 billion in stock buybacks and dividends over the last dozen years.”

Matthew Weaver, a carpenter with BMWED, told The New York Times that Biden’s decision to step in and force workers to accept a contract agreement opposed by a majority of rail union members “seems to cater to the oligarchs.”

“All of rail labor is going to suffer because of this,” said Weaver.

Grooters of Railroad Workers United argued that Congress “should ignore White House shortsightedness and introduce the labor-friendly version of a railroad bill”—but it’s not yet clear whether progressive lawmakers in the House or Senate will attempt to force amendments to the tentative agreement.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), an outspoken supporter of rail workers, told reporters Monday that any legislation preventing a strike must guarantee workers sick leave.

Citing unnamed sources, CNN reported late Monday that “following House passage, Senate action could occur later this week or next.”

“The Senate is expected to have the votes to break a filibuster on the bill to avert a potential railway strike, according to those sources,” the outlet noted. “There are likely to be at least 10 Republicans who will vote with most Senate Democrats to overcome a 60-vote threshold. The only question is how quickly the bill can come to the floor since any senator can object, dragging out the process and delaying a quick vote.”

“Sources are watching Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders closely to see if he upends an effort to get a quick vote,” CNN added. “A Sanders spokesman declined to comment.”

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Rural Northwest Ohio: Living in TrumpLand

Scores of Trump signs and flags permeate the landscape of rural northwest Ohio — almost six months after Donald Trump’s loss to Joe Biden. Nearly seven out of ten local voters voted for Trump in the 2016 and 2020 elections. President Biden is hated despite handing out thousands of stimulus dollars to local families and millions of welfare dollars to farmers. In the minds of most locals, socialists, commies, atheists, “illegals,” AOC, the Squad, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer are pawns of Satan, evil people who must be repelled at all costs.

Ten or so miles north of where we live, a Trump worshiper planted the following signs on Highway 15:

trump supporter rural northwest ohio (1)
trump supporter rural northwest ohio (2)
trump supporter rural northwest ohio (4)
trump supporter rural northwest ohio (3)
bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Dear Trump Supporters: My Opposition to You is Not Just a Difference of Opinion

truth
Cartoon by Mike Luckovich

I have recently had several Trump-supporting relatives tell me that our respective candidates are just differences of opinion. In their minds, facts are opinions, and the only difference between us is that we hold differing opinions. No matter how I try to explain the irrationality of their beliefs, their retort is just the same: that’s your opinion. Which is then followed by: we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

In Trump’s world, facts and evidence don’t matter. No matter how many lies Trump tells, his supporters either believe his falsehoods or find some fantastical way to “explain” them away.

I have reached a place in life where I simply cannot stomach being around such people, either in person or on social media. As a result, I have unfriended a small number of people on Facebook, including several close family members. Surely, blood is thicker than water, someone is going to say, but I have come to the place that I can no longer be associated with people who support politicians and policies that cause me material and physical harm. These beliefs have real life consequences. I wonder, do Trump supporters bother to consider how his words, actions, and policies affect others; how they affect their parents, siblings, children, and grandchildren?

What I find even more troubling are people who think that Trump/Biden, Republicans/Democrats are equally bad. I’ve seen countless false equivalence arguments made on social media about the recent Presidential Debate. I thought, did you watch the fucking debate? Did you watch Trump spend 90 minutes bullying and talking over Joe Biden and Chris Wallace? Did you hear all of Trump’s bald-faced lies? Yet, because Biden called Trump a clown and told him to shut up, Biden is just as bad Trump. You know that’s not true, and from my perspective, this is lazy thinking.

Put yourself in Biden’s shoes. How would you have responded to being constantly bullied and harassed by Trump? I am of the opinion that Biden was too polite, as was Hilary Clinton in 2016. Imagine what might had happened if, when Trump was leering at Clinton, she turned around and said, “Mr. Trump, please stop acting like a sexual predator!” Trump gets by with this behavior because no one calls him on it.

Donald Trump is not fit to be President of the United States. He is, by far, the worst President our country has ever had — yes, worse than Hoover and Nixon. Yet, millions of Americans will gleefully vote for Trump. And if he loses? These same people will claim the election was stolen from the “best” President in American history. Trump knows he could lose in November, and that’s why he is laying the groundwork for contesting the election, alleging widespread voter fraud. Never mind the fact that none of this will be true. In the minds of Trump’s supporters, everything is just personal opinion.

When you say you support Donald Trump and will vote for him in November:

  • I hear you say lying doesn’t matter.
  • I hear you say cheating on your SAT doesn’t matter.
  • I hear you say rape doesn’t matter.
  • I hear you say sexual assault doesn’t matter.
  • I hear you say misogyny doesn’t matter.
  • I hear you say grabbing women by their genitals against their will doesn’t matter.
  • I hear you say tax fraud doesn’t matter.
  • I hear you say paying off porn stars doesn’t matter.
  • I hear you say people of color don’t matter.
  • I hear you say poor people don’t matter.
  • I hear you say old people don’t matter.
  • I hear you say big cities don’t matter.
  • I hear you say properly funding social security doesn’t matter.
  • I hear you saying the post office doesn’t matter.
  • I hear you say affordable universal healthcare doesn’t matter.
  • I hear you say it’s okay to put children in cages.
  • I hear you say the international community is our enemy.
  • I hear you say that countries in Africa are shit holes.
  • I hear you say COVID-19 is a hoax.
  • I hear you say face masks are unnecessary.
  • I hear you say social distancing is unnecessary.
  • I hear you say science doesn’t matter.
  • I hear you say the CDC and the WHO are agents of China.
  • I hear you say peaceful protesters are thugs and terrorists.
  • I hear you say that white supremacists are your kind of people.
  • I hear you say that the United States is a Christian nation.
  • I hear you say that separation of church and state is a myth.
  • I hear you say the media is fake news.
  • I hear you say it’s okay to use racist, bigoted language.
  • I hear you say that soldiers killed in action or captured by the enemy are suckers and losers.
  • I hear you say global warming is a hoax.
  • I hear you say the law doesn’t apply to you.

Every time you voice your support of Donald Trump, you are telling me that turning a government by the people and for the people into the president’s personal fiefdom doesn’t matter; that turning the executive branch into a family-owned and -operated business doesn’t matter; that the justice department exists to harass and prosecute the president’s enemies and protect his friends; that everything is all about him.

Every time you post memes about communism and socialism, it tells me you don’t understand what communism and socialism are; that truth doesn’t matter to you; that you have no interest in truly understanding why an increasing number of Americans support democratic socialist policies; that the United States has ALWAYS had socialist programs and policies.

So, you see, I can’t agree to disagree. An arsonist by the name of Donald Trump is trying to burn down my family, my home, my community, my state, my country, and the world I live in. I love my neighbor as myself, and hope for a better tomorrow for my wife, children, and grandchildren. As long as Donald Trump and his enablers control our government, we have no promise of a better tomorrow, no hope of peace and prosperity.

These things are not matters of opinion. Anyone who can read knows the threat Donald Trump poses to the human race. That YOU, dear Trump supporter, refuse to see this, is the problem. Why do you continue to embrace, support, and enable ignorance? Surely, truth matters, right? By all means, convince me that despite all these things Donald Trump is the better candidate for president. By all means, convince me that our great republic can withstand four more years of Trump. And let me ask you one last question, are we really better off today than we were when Barack Obama was president? Be honest . . .

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Bruce Gerencser