Anti-union Josh Hawley exposes MAGA hypocrisy in 'standing up' for rail workers
Republican Senator Josh Hawley speaking with attendees at the 2022 Student Action Summit. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley was one of 15 senators to vote this week against the settlement brokered by President Joe Biden to avert a national rail strike. But he stood apart from the pack with his fraudulent attempt to co opt “the working people.”

Hawley issued this statement attacking Biden and fellow Republicans who voted for the settlement.

“Today the Senate had the chance to stand up for railroad workers who frequently risk their lives and health on the job, just trying to support their families. Instead, the Senate sided with Joe Biden. Today was a chance for Republicans to stand up for working people and against the DC establishment. They missed it. But make no mistake, the people who put on overalls or pick up a shovel or stand on the assembly line every day are worth fighting for. And the Republican Party will have no future without them.”

On its face, the opposition by Hawley and others complaining of inadequate sick leave for rail workers seemed plausible enough. But in Hawley’s case, it belied a long history of opposing the interests of working-class people while pretending to care about them.

It’s not certain Hawley even owned overalls while growing up outside Kansas City as a wealthy banker’s son educated in exclusive private schools. Hawley often misremembers that as the life of a country boy raised on a farm in the heartland, but he may have outdone himself this time as a champion of people he couldn’t care less about.

His actual record on the subject is unambiguous.

Hawley’s first major political backer was David Humphreys, a Joplin, Mo. businessman who was the highest-profile advocate of “right to work” laws in Missouri that would have banned mandatory union membership. He gave at least $3 million to Hawley’s 2016 campaign for state attorney general and another $1 million for his successful bid to unseat Sen. Claire McCaskill.

Hawley supported the right-to-work effort as a candidate until it was rejected in August 2018 by an overwhelming 2-to-1 margin in Missouri. At that point, he tried to soften that stance belatedly, as reported by the Springfield News-Leader.

Hawley has been even more outspoken as an opponent of working people in his opposition to minimum-wage increases. Here’s how the Missouri Independent reported on that:

“In 2018, then-Attorney General Hawley opposed Proposition B, a modest proposal to gradually increase the minimum wage by eighty-five cents a year. He claimed that it would be out of the mainstream, out of step with other states, and “raising the minimum wage [too] quickly. Hawley was out of touch with the people he represents. In fact, then Proposition B received 250,000 more votes than he did in his 2018 election.”

Fighting the minimum wage in his home state was hardly the only instance in which Hawley attacked the interests of working people. He has long been a vociferous opponent of the Affordable Care Act, including having joined a national lawsuit as attorney general to oppose coverage for pre-existing conditions.

But in vintage Hawley style, he has postured in the past year as favoring a $15 minimum wage for billion-dollar companies. The idea, presented in cooperation with Sen. Bernie Sanders, was benign on its face, but Hawley’s intentions were to connect it politically with his signature issue of opposing Big Tech, which the New Republic aptly described as a fake war. Here’s a telling passage:

“Fusing the false populism of Trumpism with a Republican establishment that has never seen a tax cut it doesn’t like, Hawley’s proposed solutions to our Big Tech problem are lacking. He says nothing about strengthening unions or raising corporate tax rates. He says little about actually breaking up companies or using the power of the Department of Justice and regulatory agencies to check tech behavior. He seems to want it both ways, aspiring to a more activist, trust-busting government while never actually promising substantive interventions, since he must maintain his congenital opposition to “big government.”

Hawley might present a stern façade as an enemy of giant corporate interests. But observers would do well to remember the Hawley they saw with their eyes: An insurrectionist senator who raised his fist to rile up members of the MAGA mob only to scurry like a scared chipmunk when they showed up in the Capitol.