Sparks flew at a congressional hearing Wednesday when International Brotherhood of Teamsters president Sean O'Brien told Republican Sen. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma—a multimillionaire whose family previously owned five non-union plumbing companies—that "we hold greedy CEOs like yourself accountable."
The exchange happened during a hearing convened by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont—chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions—titled "Defending the Right of Workers to Organize Unions Free from Illegal Corporate Union-Busting."
Asked by O'Brien how much he made from his plumbing business, Mullin claimed, "I kept my salary down at about 50,000 a year because I invested every penny into it."
"You hid money," O'Brien retorted, drawing pushback from the senator.
But in 2013, then-Rep. Mullin reportedly pocketed more than $600,000 from the companies in violation of House ethics rules and federal laws limiting how much outside income members of Congress are allowed to receive.
Although Mullin transferred ownership of the companies to his family, he continued to serve as a board member and chief advertiser while raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars.
As O'Brien pointed out on social media, Mullin saw his reported net worth surge from between $7.3 million to $29.9 million at the end of 2020 to between $31.6 million and $75.6 million after he sold his family's plumbing companies in late 2021.
"Don't let them distract you," O'Brien tweeted. "Unions create jobs, make work safer, and put more money in workers' pockets. Most importantly, everything we do is to improve the lives of our members. I wonder if some others can say the same about their constituents?"
Sanders, for his part, declared at the conclusion of Wednesday's hearing that "there's a class war going on whether we want to recognize it or not."
"People on top have the money, they have the power," said Sanders. "They're spending hundreds of millions of dollars to try to prevent ordinary workers from coming together to fight for dignity."