Hawley says GOP missed opportunity to say ‘we are for workers’ with rail strike vote

Sen. Josh Hawley was one of six GOP senators who supported mandating seven extra days of paid sick leave for rail workers Thursday, in a vote he said was a litmus test for a party he wants to move in a more populist direction. 

“It really clarifies the stakes for the Republican Party,” Hawley, R-Mo., said in an interview with Fox News Digital after the vote. “This is a great example, a great opportunity, for Republicans to say we are for workers over and against all of these other people. And sadly, we didn’t take it.”

However, Hawley voted to reject the fuller measure to avert the strike – which could have wreaked havoc on the U.S. economy just before Christmas. 

As the potential rail strike loomed, the Senate Thursday took up a House-passed bill which would avert a strike by mandating a contract agreement that was negotiated in September go into effect. That agreement would have granted workers three unpaid sick days as long as employees were provided at least 30 days’ notice before the time was taken. 


Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., voted to give rail workers an extra seven days of paid sick leave Thursday. 
(Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

However, some transportation unions since have said the deal was unfair and threatened a strike. House lawmakers also passed a measure to tack extra sick days onto the contract agreement, and the Senate Thursday voted on that as an amendment to the underlying bill to avert the strike. 

Hawley and Sens. Mike Braun, R-Ind., Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., John Kennedy, R-La., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., joined almost all Democrats in voting for the sick time for workers. However, with the threshold for that amendment to pass set at 60 votes, the measure failed ahead of a vote on the underlying bill, which passed overwhelmingly. 

“These are working class independent voters, many of them Republican voters, I mean in my state there’s over 3,000 of these railroad workers,” Hawley said. “These are people who live very conservative lives, and they just want to have a chance to earn a good living.”

The Senate passed a bill to avert a rail strike Thursday. 

The Senate passed a bill to avert a rail strike Thursday. 
(Mario Tama/Getty Images)


“Are you for working people or not?” Hawley said. “My feeling is that if the Republican Party is going to be a majority party in this country, we have to be for working people.”

Many lawmakers who opposed adding the paid sick leave said they were concerned about whether it was Congress’ role to step into labor disputes like this one. 

“While I am sympathetic to the concerns union members have raised, I do not believe it is the role of Congress to renegotiate a collective bargaining agreement that has already been negotiated,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who was the only Democrat to vote against the paid sick leave, said.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was the only Democrat to vote against giving rail workers more paid sick leave.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was the only Democrat to vote against giving rail workers more paid sick leave.
(Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)


“I am very glad that the two sides got together to avoid a shutdown which would have been devastating for the American people, for the American economy, and so many workers across the country.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said.

When asked if he sees any movement from the upper echelons of Congressional leadership moving towards the GOP becoming the working-people party he advocates for, Hawley said, “No.” 

“At lunch yesterday… I just made the point that if we’re going to ask independent working class people to vote for us… we’ve actually got to do something that is good for them,” Hawley said. “We ought to be the party that is for that, and we shouldn’t be the party that is defending the suits and defending the multinational corporations and defending the C-suite.”

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