Bernie Sanders message to the corporate class: “Watch out!”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a rail union workers rally near U.S. Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022. | Jose Luis Magana/AP

WASHINGTON—Watch out, corporate class: Bernie Sanders is coming after you, with new clout.

The independent Vermont senator said as much when addressing railroad workers at a D.C. rally—one of many nationwide—to declare they’ll continue their campaign for paid sick days, a key quality-of-life issue the evenly split Senate deleted from the new contract Congress imposed upon them nationwide.

Off his track record, the honchos and CEOs had better start preparing testimony, and to battle Sanders-proposed legislation to curb their crimes. That goes for Wall Street, too.

“I’ll be chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee” in the next Congress, Sanders explained. “So I’ll tell all these CEOs: Watch out!”

“We’ll bring not just the railroad workers” to HELP Committee hearings “but all other workers to demand justice that is long overdue,” he added.

Sanders’ words will swing more weight in the next Congress because he can not only haul the honchos before the panel, as he did as Budget Committee chair in this Congress, but he can write and push through legislation to curb or kill their abuses, too.

That’s because the Democrats will have a one-vote majority on the HELP panel in the next Congress. He couldn’t push the measures through in this Congress. The committee, like the Senate, was tied.

That one-vote majority will let Sanders take pro-worker legislation to the Senate floor for full debate, which the Republicans will be unable to stop, unless they attract renegade Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, now Ind-Ariz., and Joe Manchin, D-W-Va., to their censorship cause.

But if Manchin and Sinema defect, they’ll openly show themselves as puppets of the corporate class. Both are up for re-election in 2024, and most voters aren’t corporate honchos.

Vice President Harris can break the tie

Even if the Republicans pick up only one of the two defectors, Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris can still break the tie. And we all get to see the results.

Take the Protect The Right To Organize (PRO) Act as an example. Here’s what happened this Congress—and what can happen when Sanders leads the HELP panel:

In this Congress, Sanders introduced and pushed the PRO Act, organized labor’s #1 goal and the most-comprehensive pro-worker rewrite of U.S. labor law since the original National Labor Relations Act of 1935. It includes many pro-worker provisions.

Among them: Stronger powers for the National Labor Relations Board and higher fines for labor law-breaking–$50,000 for a first offense, 100 grand for a repeat offender. It applies them not just to firms but to CEOs and other corporate officers. It also legalizes card-check, makes joint employers jointly responsible for obeying or breaking labor law, and mandates arbitration if bosses won’t bargain a first contract. There’s a lot more, but you get the idea.

What happened? Sanders couldn’t get the PRO Act past the Republican floor blockade, because he couldn’t round up 50 votes for it. The defectors: Manchin and Sinema. Manchin hypocritically supported the PRO Act. Then, in the very next sentence at the same press conference with Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts, Manchin supported the Republican filibuster threat that killed it.

Sanders then tried to get the higher fines, as a revenue raiser (taxes), into so-called “reconciliation bills,” which can’t be filibustered. They’re the only legislation, that as Budget Committee chair in this Congress, his panel handles. That didn’t work, either.

Fast forward to 2023. Sanders will chair the HELP Committee. He introduces the PRO Act again. And pushes it through there on a party-line vote. It goes to the Senate for full debate. Without a Democratic defection, Republicans can do nothing to stop it in the panel.

The Republicans can still kill it with the filibuster. They’ll have 49 votes and it takes 41 to keep filibusters going.

But by the time they use that tactic, the corporate class and their lobbying to stop the PRO Act will be exposed during that debate and/or by their own testimony before Sanders’s HELP Committee.

That’ll let the entire nation see just how evil the corporate class and their radical right lobbies, such as the Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business, and the Heritage Foundation—not to mention the so-called National Right To Work Committee—are.

And the debate will let Sanders expose their crimes against workers.

Like he said, “Watch out!”


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.