Oklahoma Republican tells Teamsters president to ‘shut up’ in separate exchange at Senate hearing

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WASHINGTON – A Republican lawmaker on Wednesday told Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien to “shut your mouth” in a heated exchange at a hearing investigating union busting called US companies.

The back-and-forth between O’Brien and Sen. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., escalated into a screaming match at a hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

The argument began after Mullin, who took over his family’s business Mullin Plumbing at the age of 20 after his father became ill, complained that union pipefitters had tried to intimidate him and the 300 his plumbing worker to organize in 2019.

“They would lean against my trucks. I’m not afraid of physical confrontation, in fact, sometimes, I look forward to it,” said Mullin, who also owns several other local businesses. “And that’s not my problem. But when are you doing that to my employees?”

They would also picket outside his work site, chanting ‘shame on Mullin’, he said.

“‘Shame on Mill?” Because we were paying higher wages… and (we) didn’t want them to pay your guys’ exorbitant wages?” he asked.

O’Brien said the International Brotherhood of Teamsters had examples of employers putting illegal pressure on workers not to join unions.

Mullin, who owns several other local businesses, questioned O’Brien’s six-figure salary. O’Brien was paid more than $300,000 in 2019, according to the latest report on union leader salaries by the Teamsters for a Democratic Union, a grassroots membership group, but the Teamsters leader took a pay cut when who was elected general president.

“As President General, elected in 2021 and inaugurated in 2022, Sean O’Brien took a cut in his base pay,” said Kara Deniz, deputy director of the Department of Strategic Initiatives for the Teams told CNBC. “He now has a statutory salary that exceeds $225,000 a year and is tied to inflation.”

“The real problem here is that the US Senator says he makes $50,000 a year when he was investigated for ethics violations and has several million dollars in several companies,” Deniz said. “It is pathetic for him to be like some man of the people.”

In 2018, Mullin was found to have violated House rules by appearing in a series of advertisements for his plumbing businesses and receiving improper business payments. He was ordered to return $40,000 to the business, although the House Ethics Committee decided not to impose financial sanctions on Mullin, according to the Washington Post.

“What do you bring in for that salary? What job did you create, one job, but pulling the paycheck out of somebody else… because you making them pay taxes?” Mullin asked O’Brien.

When O’Brien said Mullin was out of line, the lawmaker fired back: “You need to shut your mouth.”

“We created an opportunity because we hold greedy CEOs like you accountable,” O’Brien told Mullin.

“Am I a greedy CEO? I kept my salary down to about $50,000 a year because I invested every penny,” Mullin said of his time as CEO of Mullin Plumbing.

“You mean you’re hiding money?” O’Brien replied.

“Do you think you’re smart? Do you think you’re funny? No, you don’t,” Mullin fired back as committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, try to calm the explosion.

In his testimony, O’Brien said that half of the senators on the committee “are only willing to offer right-to-work laws.”

“These laws are driving down wages, creating substandard benefits and eroding workers’ rights in every state they pass,” he said.

States that have enacted legislation guaranteeing that workers will not be forced to join a union or pay union dues as a condition of employment are considered “right to work”, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Business Organizations, the nation’s largest union federation, argues that the laws make it difficult to form unions and bargain collectively for better wages, working conditions and benefits.

O’Brien said 1.3 million members of his union lost their jobs and even their lives during the pandemic while large corporations like UPS and Crogar it made higher profits.

“They were going out, providing parcel delivery, providing food distribution, providing waste collection, providing all necessary services that we could take for granted at times and all the time, those big corporations like UPS, Republic Garbage (Services), Kroger grocer. warehouses, they were making higher profits,” said O’Brien. “My members feel today, that they were taken advantage of. And I think there are not only a lot of union workers but non-union workers who feel the same way.”

He said that there are no consequences when CEOs and companies call out Starbucks and CEO Howard Schultz with the name, “breaking our laws instead of supporting legislation to protect our workers’ choice to join a union.” “

Natasha Amadi, a spokeswoman for UPS, said union membership grew within the company between August 2018 and February of last year.

“The company added about 72,000 Teamster-represented jobs,” Amadi said. “That accounts for a 25% growth rate in unions from UPS. “

UPS has also hired 39,000 people to meet customer demand in the second quarter of 2020, Amadi said.

Representatives for Starbucks, Amazon, Republic Services and Kroger did not immediately respond to requests for comment from CNBC.

Mullin was not the only member of the committee to point out incidents of harassment from union organizers. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., asked the witnesses about the April 20 video showing a worker striking outside Amazon warehouse calling a female employee fake names, including “gutter b-tch.”

“This shows that it is legitimate to be concerned about the frustration of workers who are trying not to unionize,” said Cassidy.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misrepresented the number of people hired by UPS in the second quarter of 2020.

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