President Biden’s Transportation Secretary, diversity hire Pete Buttigieg, was on a paid vacation in Porto, Portugal, in September amid tense rail labor negotiations that almost resulted in a strike, the Washington Free Beacon reported.
Buttigieg left for his European vacation on August 29 and returned one week later on Labor Day, September 5. His trip occurred just one week before Amtrak “began canceling all long-distance trips in preparation of a potentially catastrophic rail strike.”
If rail workers had gone on strike, it would have cost the U.S. economy more than $2 billion per day.
Buttigieg ultimately failed to secure multiple paid sick leave days for rail workers, which upset rail worker unions.
The Department of Transportation defended Buttigieg’s trip, telling the Free Beacon that his week-long Labor Day vacation was a “long-planned personal trip.”
“As usual, while traveling on personal time he remained available and engaged on urgent issues, which in this case meant multiple calls with staff and stakeholders to work on the topic of rail labor negotiations,” a spokeswoman said. “Overall, the secretary’s work toward helping successfully prevent a rail shutdown included dozens of calls and meetings between April and December.”
But news of Buttigieg’s European vacation quickly drew criticism from detractors. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) called it “a joke”:
“Pete Buttigieg will take paid vacation in Europe for days on end but doesn’t think rail workers should get more than one day of sick leave. This is the same guy who took months of paid leave at the height of the supply chain crisis. If rail workers showed up for work as rarely as Buttigieg does, the country would fall apart.”