Divided Congress United in Not Giving a Shit About Workers

The Senate voted overwhelmingly to kill a pro-labor amendment to the 2022 America COMPETES Act—right before voting to protect a $10 billion handout to Jeff Bezos.
Divided Congress United in Not Giving a Shit About Workers
On the Clock is Motherboard's reporting on the organized labor movement, gig work, automation, and the future of work.

In a rare display of bipartisanship, the Senate overwhelmingly voted to kill a non-binding, pro-labor measure that would’ve placed safeguards on the United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021—specifically $53 billion set aside for the semiconductor industry. 

The motion was introduced by Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and would have sought to deny federal funds to union-busting firms in the industry. 


“The first amendment would prevent microchip companies from receiving taxpayer assistance unless they agree to issue warrants or equity stakes to the Federal Government,” Sanders said on the Senate floor. “In addition, this amendment would also require these highly profitable companies not to buy back their own stock, not to outsource American jobs, not to repeal existing collective bargaining agreements and to remain neutral in any union organizing effort.”

Sanders also introduced a second amendment that sought to kill the $10 billion provision to create a second Human Landing System for the Artemis program, a NASA effort aimed at getting astronauts to the moon by 2024 and then eventually establishing an ongoing presence there.

“The second amendment that I have introduced would simply eliminate the $10 billion bailout for Jeff Bezos to fly to the moon. If Mr. Bezos wants to go to the moon, good for him. He has $186 billion in personal wealth,” Sanders said on the Senate floor. “He became $81 billion richer during the pandemic. He is the second richest person in America. And, in a given year, Mr. Bezos has paid nothing in federal income taxes.”

The first amendment was crushed 6-87, while the second was shot down by a more modest 17-78.

Last month, Sanders penned a column in The Guardian criticizing plans to provide Jeff Bezos—a man worth nearly $200 billion who paid $0 in federal income taxes—with a $10 billion handout for his Blue Origin space company. The legislation to build that second Human Landing System comes after Blue Origin lost a bid for the first one to Elon Musk’s SpaceX and nearly a year of  lobbying Congress to give the company another chance.

“At a time when over half of the people in this country live paycheck to paycheck, when more than 70 million are uninsured or underinsured and when some 600,000 Americans are homeless, should we really be providing a multibillion-dollar taxpayer bailout for Bezos to fuel his space hobby? I don’t think so,” Sanders wrote in his Guardian column.

Sanders has been railing against this $10 billion provision as far back as May 2021, arguing that neither Musk’s SpaceX nor Bezos’ Blue Origin should receive any federal funds to accelerate the privatization of space travel when both men were worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

"This is something that should be an American effort, that all of us should be a part of, and not simply be a private corporation undertaking. So, I've got a real problem with the authorization of $10 billion going to somebody who is, among other things, the wealthiest person in this country,” Sanders said on the Senate floor.