"Every worker should have a free and fair choice to join a union," the president said

By Sean Neumann
March 01, 2021 08:05 PM
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Joe Biden
President Joe Biden
| Credit: The White House

President Joe Biden expressed his support for a group of Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama who are pushing a vote to unionize.

In a video message shared via the White House's official Twitter page, the president backed the bid without naming Amazon directly or expressing a view on how the vote should end.

"Workers in Alabama, and all across America, are voting on whether to organize a union in their workplace," Biden, 78, said, calling their vote "vitally important."

"Let me be clear: It's not up to me to decide whether anyone should join a union," Biden said. "But let me be even more clear: It's not up to an employer to decide that either. The choice to join a union is up to the workers — full stop."

The president weighed in on the issue after campaigning on the promise that he would be "the most pro-union president you've ever seen.

About 6,000 Amazon workers in its Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse are voting this month on whether to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, The Washington Post previously reported.

If they vote to do so, the group would become the first Amazon workers to unionize. The New York Times reported that Amazon currently has 400,000 American workers.

Amazon.com Inc. BHM1 Fulfillment Center in Bessemer, Alabama
Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama
| Credit: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty
Amazon.com Inc. BHM1 Fulfillment Center in Bessemer, Alabama
Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama
| Credit: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty

Amazon, according to the Post, has used anti-union messaging tactics at the Alabama warehouse ahead of this week's vote, including putting up flyers in the workplace bathroom.

"I feel like I'm getting harassed [by the messaging]," one employee told the paper.

Amazon spokeswoman Heather Knox told PEOPLE the company did not believe its workers would be well served by the union and touted their pay and benefits.

"We don't believe the RWDSU [the union] represents the majority of our employees' views," Knox said in a statement.

In his message Sunday, Biden said "there should be no intimidation, no coercion, no threats, no anti-union propaganda."

"No supervisor should confront employees about their union preferences," he added.

"Every worker should have a free and fair choice to join a union," the president said. "The law guarantees that choice. And it's your right, not that of an employer. It's your right. No employer can take that right away.

The president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union responded to Biden's comments in a statement, saying, "As President Biden points out, the best way for working people to protect themselves and their families is by organizing into unions. And that is why so many working women and men are fighting for a union at the Amazon facility in Bessemer, Alabama."