WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden came out in support Sunday night for Amazon warehouse workers’ push to unionize in Alabama, saying in video that workers have the right to organize without pressure from their employer.
Biden did not mention Amazon by name, but referenced “workers in Alabama” facing a “vitally important” vote over the coming weeks. He said unions “lift up workers.”
More than 5,800 Amazon workers at a warehouse in Bessemer started voting Feb. 8 whether to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. A final ballot count is expected in a month.
“There should be no intimidation, no coercion, no threats, no anti-union propaganda,” Biden said in a video posted on Twitter.
“No supervisors should confront employees about their union preferences. You know, every worker should have a free and fair choice to join a union. 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, so make your voice heard.”
Biden stopped short of explicitly saying how workers should vote. Union leaders have alleged Amazon has taken tactics to thwart employees from voting to unionize. Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Biden’s remarks.
A vote in favor of unionizing the Amazon facility would mark a massive victory for organized labor involving one of the world’s largest companies.
More:Despite COVID-19, Amazon requests in-person unionizing vote for ‘valid, fair and successful election’
By weighing in on a high-profile labor campaign, Biden departed from recent White House precedent. The statement came after Biden, who campaigned on being “the most pro-union president you’ve ever seen,” faced increasing pressure from union activists to become more vocal on the issue.
Some Amazon workers in Europe are unionized, but the online-shopping giant has resisted efforts in the U.S. The most recent union election at a U.S. Amazon warehouse came in 2014, when workers at a Delaware warehouse rejected the effort. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters has launched separate efforts to unionize at distribution centers in Iowa.
“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.”
Vox reported last fall a leaked Amazon memo showed the company planned to invest in surveillance technology that could track unionization efforts.
More:Could an Amazon union form in Iowa? The Teamsters say they’re organizing employees.
In a statement, Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, thanked Biden for “sending a clear message of support” for Amazon workers who want to join the union.
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.