For the second time since taking office, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg took paid time off during a transportation-related crisis.
According to a report from the Washington Free Beacon, Buttigieg was on a paid vacation in Porto, Portugal, in September while tense rail labor negotiations were taking place that almost resulted in a strike — which could have had disastrous consequences for the U.S. economy.
NEW: Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg went on vacation as rail unions were on the verge of a strike.
Buttigieg quietly jetted off to Portugal on Aug. 29, a week before Amtrak began preparing for a potentially catastrophic rail strike.
— Washington Free Beacon (@FreeBeacon) December 14, 2022
This isn’t the first time that Buttigieg was out of the office during a crisis, as the transportation secretary faced harsh criticism after he took more than two months of paid paternity leave after he and his husband adopted twins at the height of the supply chain crisis in 2021.
The transportation secretary left for his European vacation on August 29, returning one week later on September 5. Just one week after Buttigieg arrived back in the U.S., Amtrak “began canceling all long-distance trips in preparation of a potentially catastrophic rail strike,” the Free Beacon reported.
A major issue such as this should have been something that prompted the transportation secretary to be hard at work dealing with the crisis, yet it appears that he wanted Americans to think he was working while he was actually enjoying a vacation paid for by U.S. taxpayer dollars.
While on vacation, he uploaded a video to Twitter of himself speaking from a U.S. airport. The video was uploaded on September 1, giving the illusion that he was currently traveling within the United States — even though he was still in Portugal.
“If you’re traveling this weekend or anytime, know that our department has your back,” Buttigieg said in the video.
A report from the Association of American Railroads revealed that, if the rail workers had gone on strike, it would have cost the U.S. economy more than $2 billion per day.
Ultimately, Congress passed a resolution imposing a contract on rail workers after the Biden administration failed to negotiate a contract with the union. The main issue that workers were frustrated over was paid sick leave — which Congress voted against including in the contract.
Breitbart News noted: “Biden’s White House and Buttigieg ultimately failed to secure multiple paid sick leave days for rail workers, which upset multiple rail worker unions.”
Following the revelation that Buttigieg had been on vacation in the midst of the crisis and the high-stakes negotiations, the Department of Transportation attempted to defend his actions — excusing his vacation by telling the Free Beacon that it was a “long-planned personal trip.”
A Transportation Department spokeswoman claimed that 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,” she added.
Meanwhile, critics called Buttigieg out for his absence — with Sen. Josh Hawley calling out the hypocrisy of refusing to give paid sick leave to rail workers while taking a paid vacation, and calling Buttigieg’s decision to take a trip to Portugal “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,” 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.”