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Senate Votes to Impose Contract On Rail Workers, But Not Give Them Paid Sick Leave

Joe Manchin and 42 Republicans voted against the will of tens of thousands of workers

STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

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.

GOP House Judiciary Deletes “Kanye. Elon. Trump” Tweet After Kanye Says He Likes Hitler

The tweet stayed up through multiple controversies, but this was the final straw.

Susan Walsh/Pool/Getty Images
Republican Representative Jim Jordan

The House Judiciary Committee Republicans finally deleted a controversial tweet Thursday expressing support for Elon Musk, Donald Trump, and Kanye West—after the rapper praised Hitler and the Nazis.

The House Judiciary GOP account tweeted “Kanye. Elon. Trump” in early October. The tweet stayed up through multiple controversies, including all three men seeming to embrace some form of white supremacy.

The New Republic reached out to the office of ranking committee member Jim Jordan about the deleted tweet but did not hear back by press time.

West, now known as “Ye,” gave an unhinged, multihour interview on InfoWars Thursday, during which he formally said he was a Nazi sympathizer. He said people should stop being mean to Nazis, as they had done some good things, and at one point said, “I like Hitler.” He also denied the Holocaust, saying it was “factually incorrect” that Hitler killed six million Jews.

West appeared on the show alongside Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes. Both of them met with Trump last week—a meeting that very few Republicans have condemned.

Although the InfoWars interview seems to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, Ye has been increasingly outspoken about his antisemitism in the past few months. He wore a “White Lives Matter” T-shirt to his Yeezy fashion show in October, just days before the Judiciary GOP posted the tweet, and he tweeted later in the month that he would go “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE.”

That tweet got him banned from Twitter and cost him many major brand deals, including with Adidas.

Musk, however, said he’d spoken with Ye and insisted the musician had learned his lesson. Then, a month later, Musk shared a Nazi photo on Twitter the day before the midterm elections. A few days later, he welcomed Ye back onto the platform.

Since Musk took over, hate speech has skyrocketed on Twitter. The social media research group National Contagion Research Institute said that in the 12 hours since Musk bought Twitter, use of the n-word increased almost 500 percent.

As for Trump, in addition to meeting with Fuentes, he has made veiled threats to the American Jewish community and embraced white supremacists. He chillingly told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” during a 2020 presidential debate.

Kanye West Tells Alex Jones: “I Like Hitler”

Kanye West defended Hitler and Nazis in general on Alex Jones’ Infowars.

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Surface Magazine

On Thursday, Kanye West, known now as “Ye,” appeared on InfoWars alongside antisemite and white supremacist Nick Fuentes. There, Ye formally came out as a Nazi sympathizer.

“You’re not Hitler, you’re not a Nazi, you don’t deserve to be called that and demonized,” Alex Jones insisted to Ye.

“Well, I see good things about Hitler, also” Ye said.

He went on to complain that he has to love Jews, and what they’re doing with “contracts” and “pornography,” but that he can’t also appreciate “this guy that invented highways, invented the very microphone that I use as a musician,” seemingly misconstruing the false notion that the Nazis invented the microwave oven and the autobahn highway in Germany.

“Every human being has something of value that they brought to the table, especially Hitler.”

At another point in the interview, West simply says, “I like Hitler.”

The House Judiciary GOP’s infamous tweet that read “Kanye. Elon. Trump,” has now been deleted as of Thursday afternoon. Unfortunately, the tweet’s expressive function as some form of a Nazi summoning hex has been dealt.

Elon Musk continues to reinstate racist, antisemitic, and inflammatory Twitter accounts—including Ye. The disgraced hip hop artist and ex-billionaire has now quadrupled down on straightforward Nazi propaganda. Trump himself shared an evening meal with Fuentes and Ye last week, thereafter attempting to distance himself, claiming he “didn’t know” who Fuentes was. On InfoWars Thursday, Ye claimed Trump “loved” Fuentes.

Elon Musk’s Twitter Is Suspending Liberal Accounts for “Spam”

Several major Twitter accounts have been suspended or had other issues on the platform.

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

Several prominent—and predominantly liberal—Twitter accounts have had major issues this week, but no one really seems to know why.

Dean Baker, the senior economist at the Center for Economic Policy and Research, had his account suspended Thursday. He said Twitter claimed in an email that he had violated the platform’s spam rules.

“I have no idea,” Baker said, when asked why he was suspended. He appealed the suspension, and his account was reinstated, but his follower count had dropped precipitously, from about 67,000 to 400, although the number has grown.

Baker’s work is not political—economic research is numbers-driven and neutral—but he noted he makes the occasional joke about Twitter owner Elon Musk and has written about repealing Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects platforms from liability over what people post.

Andrew Lawrence, founder of the left-wing blog Media Matters, also had his account temporarily suspended Thursday for “spam.” Although his account was reinstated within an hour, he told reporter Ben Collins he had “no idea why I was suspended.”

Other major users have also been having issues on Twitter. HuffPost reporter Nathalie Baptiste posted a screenshot of her notifications tab, which said she had none.

On Wednesday, The Nation tweeted at Musk directly, saying the outlet’s reporter Joan Walsh’s account had been hacked. “She’s contacted @TwitterSupport at least a dozen times—no answer,” The Nation said.

Since Musk’s chaotic takeover of Twitter, the company has been rife with controversy and problems. Musk immediately fired most of the top executives and the entire board of directors, followed soon after by nearly half the workforce. The remaining employees are leaving in droves.

Many accounts that had been suspended for spreading disinformation or inciting violence—such as former President Donald Trump’s and the personal account for Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene—have been allowed back online. Twitter also dropped its Covid-19 misinformation regulations on November 23, without fanfare.

Unfortunately More on Elon

Sam Bankman-Fried’s Media Tour to Explain How Everything Is Just a Mistake

The FTX founder and former CEO says that he’s as shocked as everyone else.

Craig Barritt/Getty Images for CARE For Special Children

Sam Bankman-Fried “didn’t try to commit fraud” and is “shocked” at how his gargantuan crypto empire collapsed and left customers down $8 billion.

On Wednesday, the FTX founder and former CEO spoke in a virtual interview at The New York Times’ Dealbook Summit, an event featuring speakers including Blackrock chairman and CEO Larry Fink, former Vice President Mike Pence, Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu, and Mark Zuckerberg.

From the Bahamas, Bankman-Fried attempted to paint himself as both responsible for the billions of missing customer dollars and remorseful and unimpeachable regarding those losses. “I was CEO of FTX … I had a responsibility,” he said. When asked whether FTX inappropriately loaned customer funds to Alameda Research, a crypto trading firm he co-founded, he said he “didn’t knowingly commingle funds.”

Bankman-Fried claimed to have distanced himself from Alameda, which was why he apparently didn’t understand the circumstances of the company. But Bankman-Fried lived with Alameda employees, including its CEO, his ex-girlfriend.

Bankman-Fried secretly used $10 billion in customer funds from FTX to prop up Alameda. At least $1.5 billion of that money is missing. Now, after FTX’s collapse and bankruptcy filing, more than a million customers are owed roughly $8 billion—an amount that FTX and its affiliates don’t have.

“I’ve had a bad month …” Bankman-Fried said at the summit, prompting laughter from the audience of people who paid $2,499 to attend. “But that’s not what matters here. What matters here is the millions of customers, what matters here is the stakeholders in FTX. And what matters is trying to help them out.” Even in times of crisis, Bankman-Fried is ever the effective altruist.

Bankman-Fried’s appearance on Wednesday comes during a broader media tour. Thursday morning, he appeared in an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopouols. He was also able to negotiate an embargoed interview with New York magazine, in which he echoed similar sentiments of remorse and “concern” for customers, while refusing to answer basic questions on his culpability or knowledge of customer funds being used to prop up Alameda.

Bankman-Fried has tried and will continue to try to present as someone who got caught up in the tribulations of being in charge of so much but apparently, at the same time, nothing at all. He ought not get away with it.

Georgia Republican Lieutenant Governor Says He Couldn’t Vote for Herschel Walker

Geoff Duncan said Walker hasn’t shown he wouldn’t simply be “Trump’s puppet.”

Michael Zarrilli/Getty Images

Georgia’s Republican lieutenant governor said he ultimately couldn’t bring himself to vote for Herschel Walker.

Geoff Duncan has been an outspoken critic of both Walker and Donald Trump, whose MAGA message Walker embraced on the campaign trail. Duncan said in October the former football player had earned neither his respect nor his vote.

Duncan said he went to vote early Wednesday in the Senate runoff. “I was one of those folks who got in line and spent about an hour waiting,” he told CNN. But when it was his turn, “I had two candidates that I just couldn’t find anything that made sense for me to put my vote behind. And so I walked out of that ballot box showing up to vote but not voting for either one of them.”

He also said that Walker has not proven he wouldn’t simply be “Trump’s puppet” if elected. Duncan has been outspoken in denouncing the former president’s lies about the 2020 election being stolen.

Some people were quick to point out that it seemed odd that Duncan would still show up at a voting booth and wait an hour in line, even if he’s known all along that he was not going to vote for Walker.

Others also noted that if he had really wanted to take a stand, he would have crossed party lines and voted for Democratic candidate Raphael Warnock.

Record-high numbers of Georgians have turned out to vote in the highly contested runoff race between incumbent Warnock and Walker. Although Democrats have maintained control of the Senate, a victory in Georgia would give them an outright 51–49 majority, instead of the current 50–50 majority by tiebreak.

In the final days of the race, Warnock has sought to stress his opponent’s incompetency and lying. Walker also recently landed himself in hot water with both a viciously transphobic ad, just days after the Colorado Springs shooting, and by apparently not even legally living in Georgia.

Did “Union Joe” Just Doom Democrats’ Push to Give Rail Workers Paid Sick Leave?

After House Democrats passed an amendment on paid sick leave, Biden failed to meet the moment.

Tom Brenner/Getty Images

President Joe Biden, also known as “Union Joe” and “Amtrak Joe,” is failing rail workers.

On Wednesday, the House voted 290–137 to support a labor agreement brokered by Biden in order to avert an impending rail strike. The House then voted 221–207 to add seven paid sick leave days to said agreement. Every Democrat in the House endorsed this amendment. Rail workers currently have no paid sick days.

Biden remained mum on the paid sick leave measure, only recognizing the success of the labor deal he arranged.

“This overwhelming bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives makes clear that Democrats and Republicans agree that a rail shutdown would be devastating to our economy and families across the country,” Biden said in a statement, failing to note the still significant Republican opposition to his labor agreement.

In a press conference Wednesday, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre carried the rest of the message: Of course Biden supports paid sick leave for workers, he is just not interested in working to make it a reality.

The White House is dressing up this inaction as concern for the impacts a nationwide rail strike would have on the economy. But given that a majority of rail workers have rejected Biden’s tentative agreement, there’s no guarantee his deal would stop a strike anyway.

Meanwhile, the White House has self-imposed a deadline of December 6 for Biden to sign any legislation, three days earlier than the deadline unions threatened before striking. The administration appears to be fomenting heightened urgency in order to avoid engaging with the basic fact that it is not going to bat for workers.

The paid sick leave bill, given to Biden on a platter by progressives, offered the president a second chance at getting it right for rail workers.

After every single present Democrat—218 of them—voted in support of the measure, Biden could have expressed excitement at the prospect of giving rail workers paid sick leave, blasted the 207 Republicans who voted against it, and even pressured the Senate to follow the House’s suit. After all, numerous Republican senators, including Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Josh Hawley, have expressed noncommittal support for rail workers. Biden could have turned the tables and forced them and other Republicans to put up or shut up. It would have been good politics, and morals too.

Instead, Biden is completely dropping the ball on advocating for workers. Once again.

Democrats Now Have Six Years of Trump’s Tax Returns

After a very, very long legal battle, a Democratic-led House committee got a hold of Donald Trump’s tax returns.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday finally obtained six years’ worth of Donald Trump’s tax returns, despite repeated efforts by the former president to prevent it.

The Democratic-led committee—and Democrats in general—have been trying to get Trump’s tax returns for three years, after he refused to release them during the 2016 presidential election, which is not required but is precedent. And now, CNN first reported, the Treasury Department has finally given them the receipts.

The Supreme Court last week denied Trump’s request to withhold his tax returns from the committee and ordered the Treasury to hand the documents over. This came about a month after a federal appeals court also ruled against him, declining to reconsider an August decision approving the committee’s request for the papers.

The House committee requested the tax returns for six years, primarily from his time in office. The documents include his personal tax information and that of several of his businesses.

Trump has fought long and hard to prevent the release of his tax returns, raising questions about why he would do so.

He seems to be fighting a multifront war, and it is not going super well. Senator Lindsey Graham was forced to testify last week before a Georgia grand jury over efforts to overturn the 2020 election, and former chief of staff Mark Meadows has been ordered to do the same.

The Supreme Court in January declined to stop the National Archives from turning over documents to the House January 6 committee, which is circling closer to Trump and his involvement in the riot.

Trump is under investigation by the FBI for taking classified documents to Mar-a-Lago, and the New York attorney general has filed suit against him, his family, and his business for fraud.

And the Republican Party in general just seems to be over him.

You Can Thank Progressives for Forcing a Vote on Paid Sick Leave for Rail Workers

At the eleventh hour, progressive House members forced a vote on paid sick leave for rail workers.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The House voted Wednesday to force the end of a rail workers’ strike and, thanks to progressive lawmakers, also to give workers needed paid sick leave.

Four out of 12 rail unions—representing the majority of rail workers—have been threatening to strike, after a labor deal brokered by President Joe Biden failed to meet their demands for paid sick leave. Workers currently get zero paid sick days. Biden, who has touted himself as a “pro-labor president,” called for Congress to impose the deal anyway and block the strike, saying it would cause too much economic damage.

But in the eleventh hour, progressive Representative Jamaal Bowman submitted an amendment to the bill that requires the addition of seven days of sick leave.

Other progressives, such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Cori Bush, also pushed for the change.

Every single worker in America needs paid sick leave, including our invaluable rail workers. Anything other than that is unacceptable” Bowman said in a statement. “I could not in good conscience vote for a bill that doesn’t give rail workers the paid leave they deserve.”

He urged the Senate to follow suit and approve the amendment.

Bush said the last-minute amendment was possible when Democratic “leadership realized that they weren’t going to have the votes to pass a bill without this addition, and they came to the table and we negotiated an agreement.”

She added that House progressives were working with Senator Bernie Sanders to get the amended bill passed.

It is unclear if the paid sick leave amendment will pass the Senate, though there are some signs for hope. Sanders had said separately he intended to demand a roll-call vote on an amendment to include seven sick days. Republican Senator John Cornyn said he thought there might be enough GOP support for such an amendment for it to pass.

Joe Manchin, who represents West Virginia—a state with small but still strong union membership—said he would need to review a seven-day amendment. But the senator, who has become known for consistently throwing a wrench into Biden’s plans, said he’ll vote for “anything to prevent a strike that will enhance inflation and cause economic harm to our country.”

Rail unions and management have been negotiating for months, but with inflation still high and the holiday spending season looming, Biden finally stepped in earlier this week.

“Joe Biden blew it,” Rail Workers United Treasurer Hugh Sawyer said in a statement Tuesday. “He had the opportunity to prove his labor-friendly pedigree to millions of workers.… Sadly, he could not bring himself to advocate for a lousy handful of sick days.”

Let’s see if the progressives can pull through.

This article was updated with a statement from Representatives Bowman and Bush. It has also been edited to clarify the power of unions in West Virginia.

Led by Progressives, House Votes to Avert Rail Strike and Give Workers Sick Leave

Rail workers currently get zero sick days. The House voted to give them seven.

Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

The House voted Wednesday to advance a deal aimed at averting a national rail strike—and also give rail workers needed paid sick leave.

Members voted 290–137 in support of a tentative labor agreement brokered by President Joe Biden. Subsequently, the House voted 221–207 to add seven paid sick leave days to said agreement. Rail workers currently have no paid sick days.

The additional paid sick leave measure comes after progressive House members, including Representatives Jamaal Bowman and Cori Bush, pushed for its addition.

Unless an agreement is met by December 9, tens of thousands of rail workers will go on strike, disrupting a large portion of the country’s economy.

The urgency of the matter—both the fate of the economy and, crucially, workers’ welfare—prompted Speaker Nancy Pelosi to promptly bring the two measures to the House floor for a vote.

“After hearing from our Members, we are in agreement that a nationwide rail strike must be prevented—and that more must be done to secure the paid sick leave that hard-working railroaders deserve,” Pelosi wrote in a memo to colleagues on Tuesday.

The measure helps make clear where members of Congress actually stand on advocating for workers. The bill now goes to the Senate for a vote on Thursday, where the fate of paid leave remains unclear. Senators Cruz, Rubio, and Hawley have expressed noncommittal support for rail workers, rooted mainly in opposition to Biden’s initial deal. Senator Bernie Sanders has led the charge on the Senate side to add paid sick leave days to the rail agreement.

With the passage of both measures in the House, the Senate now has to take up both the tentative agreement and paid sick leave provision. As a result, senators’ true stance on the welfare of workers will become clear soon.