Tempers boiled over during a Wednesday hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) when Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) and Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien locked horns over labor union dues, which Mullin stated members are “forced” to pay.
The hearing, titled, “Defending the Right of Workers to Organize Unions Free from Illegal Corporate Union-Busting,” featured testimony from O’Brien, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry, former Chairman of the National Labor Relations Board John Ring, and President of the National Right to Work Committee and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation Mark Mix.”
“At a time when unions are more popular than they have been in decades, we have got to make it easier for workers to exercise their constitutional right to form a union and collectively bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in a statement announcing the hearing.
“The American people are sick and tired of the unprecedented corporate greed and illegal union busting that is taking place throughout this country,” the aging socialist continued. “The time has come for multi-billionaire leaders of extremely profitable corporations to understand that they are not above the law. When these billionaires and the enormously profitable corporations they run violate federal labor law, they must be held accountable.”
Teamsters president Sean M. O'Brien vs. Sen. Markwayne Mullin in the Senate this morning. pic.twitter.com/K6ET5KjWhl
— jordan (@JordanUhl) March 8, 2023
But, according to Mullin, it is the unions who are greedy.
“What job have you committed– or, have you, have you started? What job have you created?” he asked O’Brien. “One job, other than sucking the paycheck out of some other body, somebody else that you want to say that you’re trying to provide because you’re forcing them to pay dues?”
And that’s when things threatened to get ugly
“No, we don’t force,” O’Brien interjected.
As the committee chairman, Sanders flew to O’Brien’s defense.
“Senator, you’ve asked the question,” he told Mullin, as O’Brien stated, “You’re out of line.”
“No, don’t tell me I’m out of line,” Mullin shot back. “Don’t tell me.”
“You are out of line. You frame, you frame the statement–” O’Brien insisted.
When again challenged by Mullin, the Teamsters boss went full “Whitey” Bulger and grumbled, “Tough guy.”
Clearly not intimidated, Mullin told O’Brien, “Shut your mouth.”
One could almost smell the testosterone as O’Brien mean-mugged the senator and asked, “You are gonna tell me to shut my mouth?”
“Yes,” Mullin replied, “I did.”
“Tough guy,” mocked O’Brien, “‘I’m not afraid of physical–”
Wait. Did the union boss just threaten a U.S. senator with physical violence?
If he was implying that Mullin needed to be “afraid” of getting smacked, Mullin didn’t seem to notice.
“Don’t sit there and tell me I’m out of line,” Mullin cautioned O’Brien.
Sanders banged his gavel in an attempt to regain control of things before the exchange came to blows.
“Senator, you made a statement, you asked the question,” he told Mullin.
The Oklahoma senator stated that his so-called “question” was rhetorical, but Sanders blew him off.
“Sounded to me like a question,” he said. “Let him answer the question.”
To which Mullin flatly stated, “I’m not yielding my time to him.”
“As far as my salary goes, my salary, if you follow me around, I walk,” the emboldened O’Brien told Mullin. “I actually look at this building. I bet I work more hours than you do — twice as many hours as you do.”
“That’s impossible,” Mullin replied.
“No,” O’Brien retorted, “that’s true.”
“Sir,” Mullin stated, “you don’t know what hard work is.”
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