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Tipsheet

Here's Where Pete Buttigieg Actually Was During Rail Union Negotiations

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

As Townhall covered extensively since earlier this year, the Biden administration frequently touted its role in reaching a tentative agreement between rail companies and their labor unions in September that was supposed to avert a economically debilitating rail strike. 

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White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre emphasized that President Biden and cabinet secretaries including Tom Vilsack and Pete Buttigieg had been engaged in the negotiations and working on a resolution for months before the tentative agreement was heralded by President Biden as a "win for America." 

It seemed too good to be true just before the midterms for Biden to take a victory lap that saved the country from a strike that would have cost billions of dollars per day, and it turned out to be way too good to be true. Rail unions voted to reject the supposedly winning deal the Biden administration had put together, and Congress had to intervene at the 11th hour to enforce the contract by steamrolling the objections of union members. 

But now, new information has emerged thanks to reporting in The Washington Free Beacon that shows not everyone the White House bragged about working on the deal in their all-hands-on-deck negotiations were entirely focused on reaching a tentative deal. 

In a most unsurprising turn of events, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was not burning the midnight oil in the West Wing working on a deal with his fellow Biden cabinet members. Nope, he was on vacation — in Portugal. 

"As rail contract negotiations entered a period of crisis in September, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg phoned in from over 3,500 miles away during a vacation in Porto, Portugal, a posh tourist destination best known for its wine production," the Beacon reported this week. 

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"Buttigieg quietly jetted off to Portugal on Aug. 29, a week before Amtrak began canceling all long-distance trips in preparation of a potentially catastrophic rail strike," the Beacon explained of the only delayed rail strike that had impacts on the economy in September. "The Labor Day weekend travel was a 'long-planned personal trip,' a Department of Transportation spokeswoman told the Free Beacon, and Buttigieg 'remained available and engaged' from Europe," the Beacon reported. 

Beyond calling into question Buttigieg's commitment to reaching a deal that would be acceptable to union members (one never was), his vacation in Portugal during the negotiations is also salt in the wounds of union members who rightly believe the Biden administration threw them under the bus train. One of the main complaints from union members was the lack of sick leave and paid time off granted in their contracts with rail companies. Yet Buttigieg was on a vacation while supposedly negotiating to find a way to get concessions for union members to have a chance to be able to have paid time off from work.

More from the Beacon's report:

News of Buttigieg taking a vacation at a time of high-stakes negotiations in the transportation industry comes as he faces anger from rail worker unions over the results of those contract negotiations. Unions' chief demand of paid sick leave was absent from the final contract, which was not reached through an agreement but rather forced through by federal law earlier this month. Though President Joe Biden tapped Buttigieg as one of the administration's leaders for negotiations, the ambitious politician appeared more concerned with campaigning and fundraising for Democratic candidates in the lead-up to the midterm elections than with securing benefits for the unions.

Now it appears that attending his vacation in Europe was also higher on his priority list.

The trip gives fuel to critics who say the administration has abandoned blue-collar workers who helped put Biden in office. Sen. Josh Hawley (R., Mo.), who voted against the rail contract and has urged his party to capitalize on the administration's failed negotiations, said Buttigieg’s decision to fly to Portugal was "a joke."

"Pete Buttigieg will take paid vacation in Europe for days on end but doesn't think rail workers should get more than one day of sick leave," Hawley said.

"This is the same guy who took months of paid leave at the height of the supply chain crisis," he continued, referencing the paternity leave that Buttigieg took after he and his husband adopted children. "If rail workers showed up for work as rarely as Buttigieg does, the country would fall apart."

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