While the country was facing a possible supply chain crisis due to the looming threat of a massive rail strike earlier this year, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg was vacationing in Portugal.
According to the Washington Free Beacon, Buttigieg was in Porto, Portugal in September, a tourist destination over 3,500 miles away from Washington, D.C., that is best known for its wineries. He began his vacation on August 29th, just one week before Amtrak started canceling long-distance trips ahead of a likely strike due to failed attempts to negotiate a deal that satisfied the rail workers’ unions.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation (DOT) subsequently claimed that Buttigieg’s vacation was a “long-planned personal trip,” and that he “remained available and engaged” even while he was in Europe.
“As usual, while traveling on personal time he remained available and engaged on urgent issues,” the spokeswoman continued, “which in this case meant multiple calls with staff and stakeholders to work on the topic of rail labor negotiations.”
Buttigieg spent an entire week in Portugal, returning to the United States on September 5th.
The revelations have resulted in widespread mockery and criticism of Buttigieg, who has often been described as unqualified for his current position; it is generally understood that he was rewarded with a Cabinet Secretary position in return for his decision to drop out at a crucial time in the primaries when the establishment Democratic vote needed to consolidate behind Joe Biden in an effort to stop the insurgent candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
“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,” said Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.). “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.”
The standoff between the White House and the unions ultimately saw a number of unions vote to reject the final deal presented by the Biden Administration, which lacked several key demands such as paid sick leave. As a rail strike would have disastrous consequences for the nation’s supply chain ahead of the busy Christmas season, Biden turned to Congress to pass a law that would force the rail unions to accept the deal. The bill passed both houses of Congress and was signed into law by Biden, earning him backlash from working-class voters that he once claimed to represent as a senator.