President Joe Biden on Wednesday expressed support for efforts to unionize Amazon workers, after one of the company’s warehouses voted to join a union last week.
“The choice to join a union belongs to workers alone,” Biden said in remarks at the national conference of North America’s Building Trades Unions. “By the way, Amazon here we come. Watch.”
On Friday, workers at an Amazon warehouse on New York’s Staten Island voted overwhelmingly to join the Amazon Labor Union, a grassroots organization made up of current and former company employees. The election outcome was a watershed moment for labor organizers, who’ve sought to unionize Amazon warehouse and delivery workers for years.
Amazon has long opposed unions among its workforce and ran an aggressive campaign to discourage workers from unionizing at the Staten Island warehouse, just like it did at an Alabama warehouse last spring, where workers rejected unionization. A do-over election at the Alabama warehouse concluded Friday, but the results hang on a number of challenged ballots.
Last March, Biden endorsed union drives happening in Alabama and across the country, but he stopped short of naming Amazon specifically. He also discouraged employers from interfering in elections.
“There should be no intimidation, no coercion, no threats, no anti-union propaganda,” Biden said at the time. “You know, every worker should have a free and fair choice to join a union…no employer can take that right away.”
In his remarks on Wednesday, Biden extolled the benefits of unions, arguing union members get higher wages, improved benefits and “safer, healthier workplaces.”
He also called on Congress to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which would provide protections to workers trying to organize and limit employee interference in union campaigns. The PRO Act passed the House but is stalled in the Senate.
The successful Staten Island vote is expected to kick off further unionization attempts at Amazon and other companies. The Amazon Labor Union is also trying to organize another nearby Staten Island warehouse. That election is expected to kick off later this month.
Representatives from Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Biden’s remarks.