Biden Blindness

the president, by asking Congress to intervene and avert a strike, missed a rare opportunity to improve workers’ bargaining power in ways that could extend beyond the rail sector

Whether this group of workers has sick days or not on some level was not the issue,” said Kim Phillips-Fein, a historian at Columbia University who studies labor. “It was: What can people ask for and expect to win through collective action?”

That Mr. Biden did not take a stronger stand, she added, “suggested a political blindness to what was really at stake.”

Mr. Biden has “gestured in interesting ways in certain moments,” said Gabriel Winant, a labor historian at the University of Chicago. “But it doesn’t seem like he has the stomach to see the gestures through.”

Biden in this case revealed that I’m your friend, but I won’t risk anything for you,” said Joseph A. McCartin, a historian at Georgetown University who has written extensively about transportation labor disputes.

If Biden had intervened in a way that was more favorable and sympathetic to the rail workers, that would have been a sign of him really breaking with that model, and the model itself no longer seeming to fit the current moment,” said Ms. Phillips-Fein, the Columbia historian. “That it didn’t happen suggests the limits of his political imagination.”

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