Biden, Harris meet with Amazon and Starbucks organizers
President Biden and Vice President Harris met with worker organizers, including Amazon Labor Union (ALU) President Christian Smalls, on Thursday at the White House to support their leadership in organizing unions.
The president stopped by a roundtable discussion hosted by Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh that also included grassroots organizers from Starbucks/Service Employees International Union.
“President Biden stopped by the discussion and thanked the worker organizers for their leadership in organizing unions, the inspiration they offer to workers across the country who may want to organize, and their contributions to the worker organizing momentum that is growing across the country,” according to the White House.
Harris and Walsh, who are the chair and vice-chair, respectively, of the Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment, heard from the organizers about fair pay, paid leave, health care benefits and other issues.
Also in the meeting, the organizers described some of the alleged anti-union tactics deployed by some of the employers, according to the White House.
Following the meeting, Smalls tweeted, “Just met the President lol he said I got him in trouble… gooooooooooood.”
The meeting also included organizers from United Paizo Workers/Communications Workers of America, Titmouse Productions/International Union of Theatrical Stage Employees, Baltimore Public Library/International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and REI/Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.
Harris and Walsh “reaffirmed that the Biden-Harris Administration is the most pro-union administration in history, and reiterated that worker power is at the core of this administration’s economic vision to rebuild the economy from the bottom up and middle out… [and they] underscored that all workers must benefit and get the dignity and respect they deserve in the workplace,” according to the White House.
Smalls told The Hill before the meeting that he planned to ask the White House to support passing the PRO Act and to write a letter to Amazon “demanding that they recognize the union results that we won.”
The ALU secured a historic victory last month when a Staten Island, N.Y., warehouse known as JFK8 voted to unionize. The vote was a first for the e-commerce giant.
A vote to unionize at another Staten Island location, LDJ5, did not gain enough support. However, the ALU has heard from workers at more than a hundred locations about starting their own campaigns.
Workers at over 50 Starbucks cafes have voted to join Starbucks Workers United since December, with only five locations so far electing against unionization.
Biden in April issued a warning to Amazon days after the ALU’s historic victory, saying “Amazon, here we come.”
He also called on Congress to pass the stalled PRO Act, which would stiffen penalties for employers who violate workers’ rights and strengthen protections for employees against retaliation.
Biden has positioned his administration as one of the most pro-labor in decades, but Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has called on him to cut off federal contracts for Amazon as long as it continues to engage in anti-union activities.