Comb-gate makes a punchy headline, but it is actually one of the less disturbing reports to emerge from Klobuchar’s office. Employees say she also obstructed their job searches and kept a regressive family-leave policy on the books. According to the Times, Klobuchar required staff to remain with her office for three times as long as any leave they’d taken, and staff who left without doing so had to pay the office back for their leave. A spokesperson for Klobuchar said that no departing staffer had ever been forced to pay back leave, and that they intended to change the policy’s language. But if the fix is as simple as updating a handbook, the senator could have changed it long before her behavior made headlines. The leave policy may not be flashy, but it’s of a piece with the binder-throwing incident and with Comb-gate. Each strips workers of dignity, and reduces them to automatons who owe their employer extra time, effort, and tolerance.
American workers can’t afford to hope that a President Klobuchar would keep her workplace attitudes separate from her policies. For the past two years, Donald Trump’s White House has assaulted workers on multiple fronts. Trump, who built a cult of celebrity partly on his reputation for being a ruthless boss, pushed tax cuts that profited wealthy households while rolling back workplace safety regulations for meat processing plants and mines, and weakening injury reporting requirements for employers. Child labor protections aren’t even safe from the Trump administration: The Department of Labor is trying to roll back rules that require adult supervision for teenage nursing-home employees who are operating heavy lifts. Trump’s daughter Ivanka, meanwhile, is touting paid family leave, but the only major Republican effort to get a family-leave bill through Congress would have allowed parents to withdraw their Social Security benefits early to offset the costs of their leave. Employers, in other words, would have no obligation to offer their workers paid leave.