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Teamsters boss boasts about taking on ‘schoolyard bully’ Republican at fiery Senate hearing

Sean O’Brien and Sen Markwayne Mullin squared off at a Senate HELP committee hearing

Abe Asher
Thursday 09 March 2023 22:15 GMT
Union leader calls Senator Markwayne Mullin ‘greedy CEO’ during committee hearing

Teamsters president Sean O’Brien took a victory lap on social media after calling Sen Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma a “greedy CEO” at a contentious Senate hearing on Wednesday.

Mr O’Brien, a Boston native who defeated an incumbent to be elected president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in 2021, was in Washington, DC on Wednesday to testify before the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP).

When it was Mr Mullin’s turn to question Mr O’Brien, the hearing grew contentious. Mr O’Brien, irked by Mr Mullin’s accusation that he forces members to pay union, told the senator that he was “out of line.”

“We hold greedy CEOs like yourself accountable,” Mr O’Brien told Mr Mullin.

Mr O‘Brien asked if Mr Mullin was calling him a greedy CEO, to which Mr O’Brien responded in the affirmative.

“Oh yeah, you are,” Mr O’Brien said.

The sparring between Mr O’Brien and Mr Mullin continued for over a minute, until Sen Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the chair of the committee, directed Mr Mullin to “stay on the issue.”

The HELP committee has taken a renewed interest in the labour movement in the current Congress under the leadership of Mr Sanders, a democratic socialist and staunch ally of the labour movement. Mr Sanders invited Mr O’Brien to testify as he pushes the passage of the labour rights bill the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act.

“Always say 1 of the best parts of my job is taking on white collar crime syndicates & holding crooked politicians accountable for our members,” Mr O’Brien wrote on Twitter on Thursday. “Yesterday was GREAT because I got to do both simultaneously. Times are changing. Long overdue the schoolyard bullies get a reality check.”

Mr O’Brien’s description of the 45-year-old Republican as a schoolyard bully came after Mr Mullin said at the hearing that he did not like union leaders using “intimidation” to try to organise workplaces and then said that he is “not afraid of a physical confrontation.”

“In fact, sometimes I look forward to it,” Mr Mullin said. “That’s not my problem.”

Mr O’Brien mocked Mr Mullin’s “tough guy” act. Mr Mullin claimed at the hearing that his salary was $50,000 per year when he ran his company, but his net worth as of last October appeared to be in excess of $30m and potentially as more than $75m following the sale of his plumbing business.

There could be more fireworks at the HELP committee in the coming weeks. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has agreed to testify to the committee about Starbucks’ alleged union-busting and myriad National Labour Review Board violations under a threat of a subpoena from Mr Sanders.

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