'You Shut Your Mouth,' Senator Tells Teamsters Boss

There was an angry clash during Senate hearing on unions
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 10, 2023 9:13 AM CST

The head of the Teamsters union had a fiery exchange with Sen. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., at a Senate hearing Thursday, with Mullin telling Sean O'Brien to "shut your mouth" as they clashed over unions. O'Brien was a witness at the Senate Health, Labor, Education, and Pensions Committee hearing on defending workers' right to organize. Mullin said he wasn't anti-union, but he accused O'Brien of "sucking the paycheck" from workers to earn a salary of almost $200,000, USA Today reports.

Mullin, a former MMA fighter, claimed union members had tried to intimidate workers at the family plumbing business he owned in Oklahoma. He said he started with "less than nothing" and built a business with hundreds of employees. "I'm not afraid of a physical confrontation," he said. "In fact, sometimes I look forward to it. That’s not my problem." When Mullin accused O'Brien of forcing members to pay union dues, O'Brien told him he was out of line, the Guardian reports. "Don’t tell me I’m out of line," Mullin said. "You need to shut your mouth." O'Brien replied, "You’re gonna tell me to shut my mouth?" He added, "Tough guy," and mocked Mullin's "I’m not afraid of physical confrontation" line, per CNN.

After O'Brien called Mullin a "greedy CEO," the senator said he had taken a salary of "about $50,000 a year" because he "invested every penny" back into the company. The panel's chair, independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, repeatedly intervened to restore order. The clash continued on social media after the hearing. Mullin tweeted against "bully union bosses," and O'Brien tweeted that saw Mullin "saw his reported assets balloon from a range of $7.3 million to $29.9 million at the end of 2020 to a range of $31.6 million to $75.6 million." Insider reports that according to financial disclosures, Mullin's salary was $92,000 in 2012, the year he was first elected to Congress. (More Teamsters stories.)

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