Union Leader & US Senator Exchange Verbal Blows

“There’s a class war going on whether we want to recognize it or not,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said at the conclusion of Wednesday’s combative hearing on the right of workers to organize unions.

Sean O’Brien, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, during a Senate committee hearing on March 8, 2023 in Washington, D.C. (People for Bernie/Twitter)

By Kenny Stancil
Common Dreams

Sparks flew at a congressional hearing Wednesday when International Brotherhood of Teamsters President Sean O’Brien told Republican Sen. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma — a multimillionaire whose family previously owned five non-union plumbing companies — that “we hold greedy CEOs like yourself accountable.”

The exchange occurred during a hearing convened by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont — chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions — titled “Defending the Right of Workers to Organize Unions Free from Illegal Corporate Union-Busting.”


Asked by O’Brien how much he made from his plumbing business, Mullin claimed, “I kept my salary down at about 50,000 a year because I invested every penny into it.”

But in 2013, then-Rep. Mullin reportedly pocketed more than $600,000 from the companies in violation of House ethics rules and federal laws limiting how much outside income members of Congress are allowed to receive.

Although Mullin transferred ownership of the companies to his family, he continued to serve as a board member and chief advertiser while raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars.

As O’Brien pointed out on social media, Mullin saw his reported net worth surge from between $7.3 million to $29.9 million at the end of 2020 to between $31.6 million and $75.6 million after he sold his family’s plumbing companies in late 2021.

“Don’t let them distract you,” O’Brien tweeted. “Unions create jobs, make work safer, and put more money in workers’ pockets. Most importantly, everything we do is to improve the lives of our members. I wonder if some others can say the same about their constituents?”

Sanders, for his part, declared at the conclusion of Wednesday’s hearing that “there’s a class war going on whether we want to recognize it or not.”

“People on top have the money, they have the power,” said Sanders. “They’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars to try to prevent ordinary workers from coming together to fight for dignity.”

Kenny Stancil is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

This article is from  Common Dreams.

The views expressed in this article and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

16 comments for “Union Leader & US Senator Exchange Verbal Blows

  1. Greg Grant
    March 10, 2023 at 17:30

    These are nice quotes by Sanders but the fact is he voted for pretty much every war coming down the pike. In fact during the debates he bragged about voting for the (illegal) war (of aggression) against Serbia and said he couldn’t wait to be president and do it again. His support includes the Gulf War which he tries to distance himsel from but the fact is a few months into the Gulf he voted for a bill to commend GW Bush on his execution of a fine war and to condone continuing it. Nobody ever calls him out on that. It doesn’t matter how much he may like to sound like a socialist, he’s a hawk who likes to blow up women and children for profit.

    • JonnyJames
      March 11, 2023 at 11:25

      I agree, Sanders is complete hypocrite. Bruce Dixon and the folks at Black Agenda Report started calling him a “sheepdog” for the Democratic Party years ago. Every election, he caves and then tells everybody to vote for the right-wing, authoritarian warmonger selected by the DNC.
      Sadly, he’s just another phony socialist.

      (Warmongers are not “hawks”, they are advocates of mass murder. The word “hawk” is a euphemism and an anthropomorphic metaphor. Most of these warmongers are cowards who have led an extremely privileged life, and have no idea whatsoever what violence looks like in person. They would promptly soil themselves if put in a war situation.)

  2. Jim
    March 10, 2023 at 14:44

    Mr Sanders why do you say they’re when you mean we’re??

  3. lester
    March 10, 2023 at 13:45

    Our plutocrats would love to bring back slavery under another name! “Permanent Employment” perhaps.

  4. Dorothy Crouch
    March 10, 2023 at 12:26

    I question this. Seems like we need to hear from ‘the other side’. Bernie Sanders accusation that the people on top are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to try to prevent ordinary workers from coming together to fight for dignity is up for question. I understand Bernie’s against any Capitalism by his own admission in a televised interview. The United States is a Capitalist country as of the present. It seems he might be running for president in 2024 since I’ve run into this before recently. He ran in 2016. Folks then liked the idea of Med-4-All initially until the truth was learned about who would pay for it. Jeff Bezos offered to give Bernie a tour of one of his warehouses and discuss the issue with him but Bernie refused to even respond to him. I followed this then. At that time Bernie was even citing his hero Eugene Victor Debs, a Socialist Communist from the early days of the last century but that was not well received. He had to claim he supported government like that in the Scandinavian countries but again that had to include the Swedish inclusion of Capitalism into their governmental programs. Today Bernie is making an impact on the younger generation and many who haven’t followed this issues. Where are our dialectical thinkers? Consortium News needs to create the opportunity, the platform, for discussion so that the details are uncovered.

  5. John Henry
    March 10, 2023 at 11:48

    American unions are ‘company unions’. This is why the Democrats love them. Their current task is to make sure that no workers get raises equal to inflation, thus resulting in ‘real paycuts’ for American workers. Notice the way they keep strikes isolated and small, and always call them off to agree with below-inflation pay offers that reject the real demands of workers. Notice how every settlement fails to meet inflation’s rates, and often substitutes one-time bonuses for actual pay raises.

    We just saw these unions stiffle the rail workers who wanted better safety on the trains they have to ride. Bernie voted to forbid a strike to fight for safer trains. Profits over people’s lives, as always a bi-partisan consensus.

    A real union is a bottom up democracy where the workers make decisions, not union bureaucrats who make 6 figure salaries and who have not actually worked for a living in a long, long time, if ever. At this point, very few Americans know what a real union looks like.

  6. Miles Warren
    March 10, 2023 at 11:36

    We live in a complex time, however greed has blinded those that control society. It is hard not to be discouraged.

  7. Frank Lambert
    March 10, 2023 at 09:52

    Mr. O’ Brien and Mr. Sanders are both correct! Mullin used the corporate-written tax laws to avoid paying taxes, as most if not all of the super-rich do, and resent sharing the profits with the WORKERS who do the work that produces profit for the company and owner/s and fight every attempt by the employees to join a labor union and better themselves. It’s been going on forever, and the worship of mammon and the selfish insatiable greed of the capitalist philosophy. “Profit Before People!”

    Unfortunately, most Americans are not educated, don’t know Labor or American History and drank the Kool-Aid that unionized workers are lazy, greedy, and the unions are run by gangsters or unscrupulous union officials.

    The public and private school system, staring from grammar school and throughout college and the university level, have little, if any, curriculum about labor history, making it easy to soft-soap lowered paid workers that unions are bad, and if they unionize, the company will go out of business, a successful scare tactic to keep the workers fearful of losing their job. To sum it up, if you aren’t willing to stick together in fighting for your rights, and with the cost of living rising, but not wages, peonage is the future for them and for some, homelessness, while the rich-filth flaunt their money buying mansions, yachts, jet planes (and even rocket ships) while their employees struggle from paycheck to paycheck in trying to eke out an existence.

    • Ibn Insha
      March 11, 2023 at 06:39

      So, how many jobs Mr. O’brien created?

      I have dealt with unions for 35 years. They are the most unethical people God ever created. I ran my division very honestly. Never treated my employees unfairly and most liked me for that. 95% of my problems were caused by just 5% of employees and they made my life hell by dragging me in courts, labor department and in front of union and they lost each and every time. I kept my records organized. Union officials would come with all guns blazing and when confronted by documentary evidence against the aggrieved employee they squirmed like little babies. They would say, “Oh, well, see what you can do for this employee.”

      I have seen multi billion dollar businesses destroyed and tens of thousands of employees losing jobs because of union’s stubbornness to not negotiate with employers in good faith. They go on strike when employers refuse to submit to their unrealistic demands. Employees who understand that demands will never be met because they are unrealistic and want to cross the picket lines are threatened and even assaulted, (by some unknown men for no reason or mugged. You know one can be a victim of a crime any time. Right? Right). As time passes by as both companies and employees lose money they come to bargaining table and unions settle on something realistic. Union bosses go back to their members and tell them the company was very stubborn and this is all the other side agreed to.

      Union bosses never lose their jobs and they make millions on the backs of their members. Unions don’t work for their members, they work for themselves. They are their own best friends.

  8. D.H.Fabian
    March 10, 2023 at 09:17

    Yes, the middle class rose up against unio0ns by the 1980s, calling them “corrupt leftist organizations.” Today’s US is middle class vs. poor, workers vs. those left jo0bless.

  9. Drew Hunkins
    March 9, 2023 at 17:19


    Finally someone with some stones!

    Reminds me of the Huey Long story I love so much:

    Huey happened to be walking past a high powered meeting of rich officials in DC, he barged into the room, quickly announced to everyone present, “So you know, I hate you all.” and sauntered out.

    Nicey nice hasn’t worked! We’ve seen 40 years of declining wages, Wall Street greed beyond belief and grotesque wars.

    Grab a pitchfork!

  10. Selina Sweet
    March 9, 2023 at 16:28

    Bravo Mr. O’Brian??Keep working these ethically deprived users that cheapen what ‘Senator’ represents. And do disservice to the citizenry while also hollowing out our democracy . They should be required to wear a dunce hat while pretending to do the peoples’ business while sitting in chambers.

  11. Selina Sweet
    March 9, 2023 at 16:22

    What penalty did Mullin have to make good on when he pocketed that over the top outside income? Anything? And as he continued to serve on his businesses boards and as chief advertiser – while raking thousands of dollars in from them – was he a Senator also? How is that ethical? How did he use his Senatorial role to bolster his businesses profits? Is it unethical to use the office of Senator to advance your family’s wealth? What are the consequences for such unethical (if it is unethical) conduct?

  12. Occupy on!
    March 9, 2023 at 15:56

    There’s definitely a class war going on in our country. It’s been reported over and over how profits burst forward among the millionaire/billionaire class of Wall Street through these last years of Covid 19, financing war in Ukraine (whose oligarchs’ profits ballooned, too) and sanctioning anything “Russia” snuffing trade and production everywhere in the capitalist west.

    The middle class is dying. My teacher’s retirement pay puts me in the low middle-income ‘bracket’. Having just paid my last month’s PG&E bill of slightly under $900.00, do you think I’ll buy ‘extras’ this month? There must be thousands in my community who’ve received similar blows. What’s that going to do to our local community?

  13. DMCP
    March 9, 2023 at 15:44

    Yes, there is definitely a class war going on in America. But we have reached the point where workers have to argue in courts for the right to organize. Incidentally, that right is included in Article 23 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But don’t expect your employer to respect that right, because the laws are tilted against union organizing across the country.

    So it’s fair to conclude that the class war is just about over, with owners and managers on the winning side. It’s just a clean-up operation now. At this point, you’re supposed to feel lucky that you have a job. Or two, or three. You’re supposed to embrace the climate of chaos and uncertainty now that you’re a member of the precariate. You’re supposed to feel lucky that you’re not homeless, but never to forget that you could be homeless tomorrow. If you have a job, you’re supposed to lick your boss’s boots, and probably his arse as well if you ever want a promotion. And you can always be tossed out tomorrow. Because people are now commodities and commodities are disposable.

    In the 1990’s we watched NAFTA and the Great Job Rush to other countries. In 2011 Steve Jobs had dinner with President Obama and the President asked, “What would it take to make iPhones in the United States? Why can’t that work come home?” According to another dinner guest, Steve Job’s reply was blunt. “Those jobs aren’t coming back.” Now we can say the same about unions.

    It took a huge effort to build the unions in America, and it will take another huge effort to build them back. And that won’t happen until corporations lose their vice-grip on our government.

  14. Antiwar7
    March 9, 2023 at 15:41

    And Sen. Sanders has carved out a good living sounding good on issues like this, without doing anything of substance.

    A virtual leftist? A sheepdog keeping errant Democratic sheep in the fold?

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