But after intervening on the side of the railroads, Biden and Buttigieg have yet to say just how they will try to secure sick days for 125,000 rail workers, who are among the 33 million U.S. workers lacking access to a benefit that’s universal in other wealthy nations around the world.
In truth, the administration has several possible avenues it could pursue to try to deliver those protections. Biden could try to expand an executive order requiring federal contractors to provide sick leave, Buttigieg could robustly enforce existing rail safety laws to challenge harmful attendance policies, or the administration could use the last few weeks of Democrats’ control of Congress to push for the passage of a national paid sick leave bill languishing in committee after being reintroduced 10 times in the last 15 years.
To be sure, the railroads have the funds to provide this benefit to their workers. On Tuesday, just four days after Democrats passed their strike-busting bill without paid sick leave, Norfolk Southern Railway, one of the biggest freight companies, boasted that it would be enriching its shareholders with stock dividends and buybacks. And according to financial records reviewed by The Lever, providing workers with seven paid sick days would cost railroads just four days of recent profits.Levernews How Biden and Buttigieg Could Still Help Rail Workers