The silence of the progressive chair: Jayapal mum on Biden/Pelosi plan to impose terms on union workers

If events go according to plan this morning, Joe Biden’s deal for ending a rail-industry labor impasse will hit the House floor about now. Nancy Pelosi promised a 9 am introduction for the two-page bill imposing the settlement workers rejected onto them and forcing them to stay at work. The effort won kudos from business interests, but it prompted outrage from workers, some progressive House Democrats, Democrats’ union allies, and even a handful of Republicans who wondered aloud what was so tough about providing even a few days of paid sick leave.

And as of this morning, it also produced nothing but silence from the leader of House Democrat progressives. It’s as if Pramila Jayapal has joined Miguel Almaguer in media limbo. At least the Progressive Caucus chair has access to her two Twitter accounts, but Jayapal has not tweeted a word about the Biden-Pelosi plan to force rail workers in four unions to work under terms they have already rejected.

In the last 24 hours, Jayapal has found time to tweet about the following topics:

All of that appears to be a higher priority for Jayapal than union workers getting forced to work under terms set by management and the government. Even some of her natural allies are beginning to notice Jayapal’s silence on the subject. The hard-progressive activists at Common Dreams pointed it out late yesterday as a contrast to the loud objections from members of Jayapal’s Congressional Progressive Caucus, for instance:

Another Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) member, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), asked, “Why wouldn’t the rail companies just allow workers to have paid sick days?”

“We need to stand with workers,” Khanna added. “This is not complicated.”

In perhaps the sharpest response from a House Democrat, Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) tweeted Tuesday that “rail workers can’t schedule getting the flu on a Tuesday 30 days in advance”—a reference to the tentative deal’s restrictions on when workers are allowed to take unpaid days off for doctor’s visits.

“What we’re seeing is an inhumane deal being pushed onto workers even after a majority voted it down,” Bowman, also a CPC member, continued. “If we are a pro-labor party, we must stand up for them. They need paid sick leave now.”

In a separate tweet, Bowman said he “can’t in good conscience vote for a bill that doesn’t give rail workers the paid leave they deserve.”

Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) echoed that sentiment.

“Every worker deserves paid sick leave,” Bush wrote. “I will not support a deal that does not provide our rail workers with the paid sick leave they need and deserve.”

At press time, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the chair of the CPC, had yet to comment on Biden’s stance as progressive advocacy groups urge Democrats to side with exploited workers over the greedy rail industry.

A check on Bing at 8:05 ET this morning of news reports for Jayapal rail strike turns up nothing on any public statement from the CPC chair, either. Vox has an explainer up from yesterday afternoon that tells readers about the “awkward bind” in which Democrats find themselves, but it never mentions Jayapal at all. It also goes into a lengthy discussion about how Congress could choose to amend the negotiated agreement to add sick days or to just impose another 60-day cooling-off period, but that ignored the fact that Pelosi had already promised to push a bill imposing terms — and that a draft to that effect had already been released.

Biden and Pelosi have set the terms; Jayapal has apparently decided to duck them. Jayapal’s silence on this issue is a sharp contrast to her tireless promotion of CPC power on behalf of government spending in the Build Back Better debacle. Jayapal didn’t mind going toe to toe with Pelosi at that time, and Pelosi’s on her way out now as Democrat caucus leader to boot. Profiles in Courage, this ain’t.

Stay tuned for more developments on this. Best guess: this bill doesn’t hit the floor without a public endorsement from Jayapal, who will likely lose her chair position if she does endorse it.

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