At a hearing of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Sen. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., challenged Teamsters General President Sean O'Brien to a fight, prompting committee Chair Bernie Sanders to intervene.
The committee hearing, titled Standing Up Against Corporate Greed: How Unions are Improving the Lives of Working Families, featured the heads of several top unions. O'Brien was there on behalf of Teamsters just months after his union secured a major collective bargaining agreement with UPS after workers threatened to strike.
"This is a time and this is a place. You want to run your mouth, we can be two consenting adults. We can finish it here. OK?" Mullin said.
"That is fine, perfect," O'Brien said.
"You want to do it now?" Mullin said.
"I'd love to do it right now," O'Brien said.
"Stand your butt up," Mullin said.
"Then you stand your butt up," O'Brien said as Mullin stood up.
The exchange prompted Sanders to get Mullin to sit back down.
"This is a hearing, and God knows the American people have enough contempt for Congress," Sanders said. "You have questions on any economic issues, anything said, go for it. We're not here to talk about physical abuse."
The encounter was not the first time the two have engaged in a heated argument. Mullin expressed frustration about how unionized workers affected his plumbing business.
"Back in 2009, you guys tried to unionize me," Mullin said, adding that he was paying employees better than unionized workers. "Because we started bidding union jobs and winning those, union pipefitters decided to come after us."
O'Brien went on to claim that Mullin was a "greedy CEO" who "hides money."
Mullin said at the March 2023 hearing that he supports union workers' right to join a union but said members should not be obligated to join a union.
On Tuesday, O'Brien testified that the recent contract with UPS was an example of how unions are holding employers accountable.
"The extreme consolidation of wealth and power in this country is a crisis that deserves Congress’ immediate and full attention, but working Americans are not waiting to be saved by their elected officials. Workers are taking action to improve their standard of living, stay safe, and have a voice at work by organizing and building worker power," he said.
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