After a successful union election for Amazon workers in New York, marking America’s first-ever union at the tech and retail giant, President Joe Biden stressed worker protections “for s ensure that the choice to join a union rests with the workers alone”.
“By the way: Amazon, here we come,” he said at the North American Building Trades Union Legislative Conference on April 6.
The room erupted in cheers as he urged members of Congress to pass the stalled Pro Act, a measure that would expand labor protections related to employees’ rights to organize and bargain collectively in the workplace.
“That’s what unions are for, in my opinion: the dignity and respect of people who get in trouble,” he said, pointing to apprenticeship programs and other union protections.
“That’s why I created the White House Task Force on Organizing and Empowering Workers, to ensure that the choice to join a union rests solely with workers. And by the way: Amazon, here we come. Look. Look,” he added.
The president said that “workers who join a union gain power – power over decisions that affect their lives”.
“When you have a union, workers’ voices are heard and taken into account,” he said. “They ensure democracy in the workplace.”
President Biden had previously expressed support for an Amazon Alabama union campaign without naming the company, saying last year that “workers in Alabama and across America vote whether or not to organize a union in their workplace,” which he called it a “vitally important choice” and “one that must be made without intimidation or threat from employers.
That election fell through, although the federal labor commission authorized a re-election after a regional manager determined that Amazon showed “flagrant disregard” for the mail-in ballot, arguing that the company “had essentially hijacked the process and given the strong impression that it controlled the process.
The results of the new election were too close to be announced on March 31, with more than 400 disputed ballots to be added to the final tally before the vote was finalized.
Meanwhile, workers and organizers celebrated a union election victory after a months-long campaign to organize Staten Island’s JFK8 warehouse, where workers demanded better wages and health and safety protections , while the company has spent millions of dollars pursuing an anti-union campaign. — including hiring powerful consulting firms with ties to Democratic political operatives — and relied on so-called “captive audience” meetings to dissuade workers from joining.
Brooklyn’s National Labor Relations Board collected hundreds of ballots on March 31 and April 1.
Workers organizing with the Amazon Labor Union went ahead with 2,654 votes, with 2,131 votes against unionization.
“The people have spoken and the people want a union,” the union organizer and Christian Smalls told supporters last week. “We want to thank Jeff Bezos, [because] while he was in space, we signed people up for the union.
President Biden – whose former communications director Jay Carney is Amazon’s senior vice president for policy and press – has pledged to lead the “most pro-union” administration, amid a historic wave of organizing across the country during the public health crisis.
The White House-backed Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or Pro Act, would weaken so-called “right to work” laws and strengthen the right to organize against retaliation and other union-busting efforts. It would also allow the country’s labor council to fine companies for breaking labor laws.
It has broad support from unions and advocates, among other groups, and has passed the House of Representatives twice while facing an unlikely passage in the equally divided US Senate.