On Sunday, President Biden tweeted a video expressing support of workers, unions, and the right of workers to organize. The President didn’t name a specific organizing effort but singled out Alabama, where arguably the most significant union drive in the country is taking place at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer.
“Unions put power in the hands of workers. They level the playing field. They give you a stronger voice for your health, your safety, higher wages, protections from racial discrimination, and sexual harassment,” Biden said in the video. “Unions lift up workers, both union and non-union, but especially Black and Brown workers."
The tweet itself nods to "workers in Alabama - and all across America" voting on whether they want a union. In Bessemer, Alabama, over 5,800 workers at an Amazon warehouse are in the middle of a union election that will decide whether the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union will represent them.
In a statement, the union thanked the president for the support.
“Thank you, President Biden, for sending a clear message of support for the BAmazon Union workers in Alabama seeking to bring the first union to an Amazon warehouse with the RWDSU,” the union said in a statement. “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.”
The video comes days after 43 organizations urged the President to publicly voice support for the union drive in a letter addressing how "corporate monopolies have leveraged their market power to abuse working people, suppress their wages, and obstruct their efforts to unionize."
Biden also took aim at Amazon’s notorious anti-unionization efforts, which have included constant text messages to workers and mailers instructing workers to vote “no” at a newly-installed postbox outside the facility. In the video, Biden condemned employers who might interfere with union votes, emphasizing that "there should be no intimidation, no coercion, no threats, no anti-union propaganda” when workers are making their choice.
"You should all remember the National Labor Relations Act didn't just say that unions are allowed to exist, it said that we should encourage unions,” the President said. “So let me be really clear: it's not up to me to decide whether anyone should join a union. 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.
Regardless of what you think about Biden, this video where he clearly supports the right to collectively bargain and the Bessemer union drive are probably the most pro-labor statements a Democratic president has made in decades. However, Biden did not explicitly say the word “Amazon,” which makes it a much weaker statement than that of, say, Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams, who forcefully supported the union drive in a video statement in February.
“Hello to the Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama and congratulations on your historic effort to form a collective bargaining unit,” Abrams said. “As a longtime supporter of labor rights, I strongly support your efforts to form a union and I urge each of you to vote in favor of doing so.”
It remains to be seen whether Biden will be as militantly pro-union as the moment calls for, but it’s still a positive development for the Democrats and lightyears away from what we could have expected months ago considering the last Democratic President let a Republican governor launch an assault on public unions.