US President Joe Biden makes remarks before signing an executive order aimed at addressing a global shortage of semiconductor chips at the State Dining Room in the White House in Washington on February 24, 2021.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
Without naming Amazon specifically, President Joe Biden on Sunday expressed support for a meticulous union vote at one of the retail giants’ Alabama warehouses, calling it “extremely important.”
“Today and over the next few days and weeks, workers in Alabama and across America are voting on whether to organize a union in their workplace,” Biden said in a video shared on his Twitter page. “This is of utmost importance – an extremely important choice, as America is grappling with the deadly pandemic, the economic crisis and the reckoning of race – that it reveals are the deep inequalities that still exist in our country.”
Amazon representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Earlier this month, nearly 6,000 workers at an Amazon plant in Bessemer, Alabama, began voting by mail over joining the retail, wholesale and department store union, which began the company’s first major union effort since 2014. Last November, workers at the Alabama facility informed the NLRB of their plans to vote on whether they will be represented by the RWDSU.
Ballot papers were sent to employees on February 8 and must be received by the National Labor Relations Office by March 29. The count begins the next day.
The union effort in Alabama emerged as a protracted labor dispute at Amazon, with the company hire the same law firm it had earlier helped negotiate during a failed union in Delaware in 2014. Amazon also made clear its position on the union campaign to employees at the Bessemer facility by holding mandatory meetings, setting up a website urging workers to “do it without pay” and according to recent Under report, distribute pamphlets instructing workers to vote ‘NO’ on the historic election.
In addition, Amazon tried to postpone the union election and demanded a personal election, which the NLRB denied.
In the video, Biden said it’s up to the workers ‘point’ to decide if they want to join a union. He also discouraged employers from interfering in union elections.
“There may be no intimidation, no coercion, no threats, no anti-union propaganda,” Biden said. ‘No supervisor may confront employees about their union preferences.
“You know, every worker must have a free and fair choice to join a union … no employer can take it right away. So let your voice be heard,” he added.
While on the campaign, Biden made promises to ‘be the president of the union’. He also made the empowerment of workers an important principle of his work agenda.
In a statement, union president Stuart Applebaum thanked Biden for showing his support for union action.
“As President Biden noted, the best way to protect people and their families is by organizing unions,” Applebaum said in a statement. “And that’s why so many working women and men are fighting for a union at the Amazon facility in Bessemer, Alabama.”