Report: Pete Buttigieg on Vacation in Europe amid Potential Rail Workers Strike 

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Brad Barket/Getty Images for The New Yorker

President Joe Biden’s Transportation Secretary, 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. However, as the Free Beacon noted, Buttigieg’s trip occurred just one week before Amtrak “began canceling all long-distance trips in preparation of a potentially catastrophic rail strike.”

While Buttigieg was on vacation, he uploaded a video of himself to Twitter speaking from a U.S. airport on September 1, giving the appearance as if he were traveling within the United States. “If you’re traveling this weekend or anytime, know that our department has your back,” Buttigieg said in the video.

If rail workers went on strike, it would have cost the U.S. economy more than $2 billion per day, according to an Association of American Railroads report.

Biden’s White House and Buttigieg ultimately failed to secure multiple paid sick leave days for rail workers, which upset multiple rail worker unions.

The Department of Transportation defended Buttigieg’s trip amid the high-stakes negotiations, telling the Free Beacon that his week-long Labor Day vacation was a “long-planned personal trip.”

A Transportation Department spokeswoman said Buttigieg “remained available and engaged” from Porto, Portugal, a town known for its wine production.

“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,” the spokeswoman said.

“Overall, the secretary’s work toward helping successfully prevent a rail shutdown included dozens of calls and meetings between April and December,” the spokeswoman added.

However, news of Buttigieg’s European vacation quickly drew criticism from his detractors. For example, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) called Buttigieg’s decision to fly to Portugal “a joke,” the Free Beacon reported.

“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,” Hawley said. “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.”

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