Sanders’ pro-union budget committee hearing shows Democrats’ true agenda

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) gives an opening statement during a hearing to discuss President Biden's budget request for FY 2022 on Tuesday, June 8, 2020 .
Greg Nash

Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) held a Senate Budget Committee hearing Thursday titled, “Should Taxpayer Dollars Go to Companies that Violate Labor Laws?” The hearing was supposed to examine the possibility of ending federal contracts for companies engaging in “illegal anti-union activities.”

In reality, the hearing was orchestrated to paint a single company in a bad light and gin up momentum for the Amazon Labor Union. Thursday’s hearing was far outside the Budget Committee’s jurisdiction and is part of a government-wide effort to expand organized labor’s power to the detriment of American workers.

The 1974 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Act affirmed Congress’s power of the purse by establishing a budget process for the House and Senate to follow. The act created the House and Senate Budget Committees as well as the Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan federal agency that analyzes and scores legislation for budgetary and economic impact.

According to the Senate Budget Committee’s own website, the committee’s primary responsibility “is to develop a concurrent resolution on the budget to serve as the framework for congressional action on spending, revenue, and debt-limit legislation.” Through this budget resolution, the committee can initiate the reconciliation process. The committee “also holds hearings on the economy, oversight hearings to monitor the performance of government agencies, and hearings to consider nominations for the president’s Office of Management and Budget.”

Given the committee’s self-stated purpose and jurisdiction, an entire hearing dedicated to examining ending federal contracts for a single company seems to be a clear waste of committee time and resources.  

So, what is really going on?

Sanders sent a letter to President Joe Biden on April 26, urging Biden to draft and sign an executive order that prevents companies with even an alleged violation of federal labor law from contracting with the federal government. While presumably covering all companies that violate federal labor law, the letter singles out Amazon as the “poster child” for why an “anti-union busting Executive Order” is necessary, laying out all sorts of alleged labor violations. It should be noted that the letter’s sole citation is Joe Biden’s campaign website, making this hearing a clear dirt-digging exercise for Sanders.

The hearing served an additional purpose: bolstering the Amazon Labor Union’s dwindling momentum. Amazon Labor Union President Chris Smalls was a Democratic witness at the hearing and met with Vice President Kamala Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh Thursday afternoon. 

The Amazon Labor Union’s efforts to unionize Amazon have had mixed success so far. In late March 2022, workers at Amazon’s JFK8 Staten Island facility narrowly voted to unionize, delivering the Amazon Labor Union its first victory. However, just this week, Amazon workers at a second Staten Island facility known as LDJ5 overwhelmingly voted against representation by the Amazon Labor Union. Amazon has filed objections to the JFK8 election, which the NLRB will hear on May 23. Rather than letting the NLRB process play out, Sanders inappropriately invited labor leaders to testify while an election result is being appealed.

This most recent interference is part of a larger pattern. The Biden administration has weaponized the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the supposedly impartial agency in charge of overseeing representation elections, in service of its pro-union agenda. 

Just one week before the JFK8 vote, the NLRB filed an emergency injunction to force Amazon to rehire an employee that was terminated 23 months prior. While the NLRB claimed the firing was designed to blunt the union’s momentum, Amazon says the employee in question was terminated for hurling obscenities at a female coworker and live-streaming the attack on Facebook. Apparently, the NLRB considers this appropriate workplace behavior if the worker supports unionization. 

Democratic witnesses also used the hearing as a platform to push other planks of the Biden administration’s pro-union agenda, including the “Protecting the Right to Organize” (PRO) Act. Smalls expressed support for the PRO Act while at the same time saying that workers should have a choice of whether to join a union. Yet the PRO Act would nullify right-to-work laws in 28 states, forcing every worker to pay a union boss just to get a job.

Ranking Member Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) observation during the hearing was exactly correct — under Sanders’s direction, the Senate Budget Committee has taken a dangerous and partisan turn. Instead of focusing on issues under jurisdiction, Sanders would prefer to use his chairmanship as a bully pulpit to push a pro-union agenda and target companies he dislikes for purely political reasons.

Tom Hebert is federal affairs manager at Americans for Tax Reform and executive director of the Open Competition Center.

Tags Amazon Labor Union Bernie Sanders Joe Biden Labor unions in the United States Lindsey Graham National Labor Relations Board Politics of the United States PRO Act Senate Budget Committee

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