And when asked if Biden had weakened union support for the presidency, Sanders bluntly answered in an interview: “Yes, he does.”
“President Biden has spoken more about his support for unions than any other president I can think of. This is good. But the time for talking is over. Employees need action. Now,” Sanders said. “What Biden talked about during the campaign… is that if large corporations engage in illegal anti-union activities, they will not be eligible for federal contracts. Well, Amazon is engaged in illegal anti-union activities.”
Biden’s stated goal of becoming “the most unionized president” has met with mixed success.
The Senate did not accept Law on the Protection of the Right to Organize this would allow more workers to form a union. But union allies who helped get Biden into office say they have no remorse buyerspointing to often unilateral actions such as appointing union-friendly candidates to the National Labor Relations Board, promoting policies that would ensure that federally funded projects go to unionized contractors, and creating a task force to promote unionization in the public and private sectors. .
Sanders often uses his senatorial position to push Democratic presidents to the left. With six months before the midterm elections, he believes Biden has a strong opportunity to make headway as unionization efforts ramp up across the country.
“All I ask of the President is that he has explicitly stated what he will do during the campaign. It is right. And this is the time when workers need to know that the President is on their side,” Sanders said in an interview.
A White House spokesman said the president “has consistently and firmly stated that every worker in every state should have a free and fair choice to join a union and the right to bargain collectively with their employer.” The official, who declined to be named, added that Biden believes “there should be no intimidation, coercion, threats and anti-union propaganda from employers while workers are making vital union choices.”
This week, union allies hail Sanders’ move as welcome steps to move Biden further. AFL-CIO President Liz Schuler said that “Biden supported Amazon workers from the podium of the hooligans.” But, she added, “maybe more? Always.”
“I’m glad the senator has made his point because we need voices from all quarters strongly condemning Amazon’s union busting tactics,” Schuler said. “As we gain momentum, it will be even more important to have that voice.”
Biden has clearly not supported the fight to unionize Amazon, though he has been more vocal on the issue than his predecessors. Earlier this year, the president released a video at the start of Amazon’s first union election in Bessemer, Alabama, implying he supported the initiative.
“Let me be very clear: it’s not up to me to decide whether anyone should join a union,” he said. “But let me be even more clear: it’s not the employer’s business either.”
Most recently, he said at the annual conference of North American construction unions in DC this month that “the choice to join a union belongs only to the workers,” before leaning into the microphone and saying, “By the way, Amazon, here we are. Look.”
“We need any help at the federal level; it would actually make things easier for us,” Alabama warehouse worker Isaiah Thomas said Tuesday. “Because we try our best, especially in Alabama.”
After visiting an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York, and meeting with Starbucks workers in Virginia, Sanders said Amazon is essentially using its resources to drag out negotiations with warehouses that vote to unionize to prevent contract ratification. . Summing up their strategy, he said that “they have unlimited resources, they will stretch.”
At a budget panel hearing next week, “we’re going to determine how much federal money went to companies — not just Amazon, but primarily Amazon — that are doing illegal anti-union activities,” Sanders said.
Amazon declined to comment for this story.
Sanders pointed to the e-commerce giant’s recent anti-union behavior, specifically in Staten Island. Last month, workers at one of her businesses in the New York area voted to form Amazon’s first labor union.
There, Amazon has spent millions trying to dissuade employees from organizing, a strategy that paid off in Alabama, where a previous attempt at unionization failed. (The union representing these workers, the Retailers, Wholesalers and Department Stores Union, is in the process of challenging the re-election results amid accusations that Amazon once again intervened unlawfully.)
“They attract people, they work with them as hard as they can. And then a year later, these people are forced to leave and bring in new people,” Sanders said. “This is the Amazon business model and workers are starting to get up.”
The NLRB has more than 50 unfair labor practices cases against Amazon, Sanders said. The NLRB did not immediately comment.
Sanders’ letter also raises concerns that Amazon classifies its drivers as independent contractors rather than employees, giving them a narrower set of benefits by preventing them from forming a union. And he called Amazon’s workplace safety policy, which he called “inadequate.”
In 2021, Amazon employees were injured more than twice as often as other employees. according to the Center for Strategic Organization of Data Analysis of the Office of Occupational Health and Safety. Amazon employed a third of all warehouse workers in the US that year, but accounted for almost half of all injuries in the sector.