President Joe Biden on Wednesday acknowledged Amazon’s historic labor victory during a speech to union members and leaders on Wednesday, issuing what appeared to be a call to continue organizing the world’s largest online retailer.
Biden was speaking at a conference of North American building trades unions in Washington, DC, on the importance of collective bargaining when he leaned into the microphone, smiled and said : “By the way.”
“Amazon, here we come,” he said, to loud cheers.
Last Friday, a new independent union called the Amazon Labor Union won a historic election at an Amazon warehouse in New York, with workers voting 2,654 to 2,131 in favor of unionization. If the results are certified, it will be the first union within Amazon’s US operations. The e-commerce giant had launched a aggressive but ultimately unsuccessful campaign against the union.
Biden has billed himself as “the most pro-union president” ever and often promotes the idea of organizing in the workplace to improve jobs. But his remark from Amazon on Wednesday — perhaps off the cuff — was unusual in that it was directed at one company in particular, and one of the most powerful in the world.
Last year, the President delivered a unprecedented speech on organizing in which he berated companies like Amazon for interfering in organizing efforts. At the time, Amazon was pressuring workers at a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, to vote against unionizing there. Although Biden was clearly speaking about Amazon’s election, he did not mention the company by name in those remarks.
Biden took the stage Wednesday to chants of “Joe!” members of the building trades. He used the speech to promote his administration’s policy proposals that would facilitate the organization. Union density in the US private sector has fallen to only 6.1%and the White House has pledged to help turn the tide.
“That’s what unions are for in my opinion – to provide dignity and respect to people who are struggling,” Biden said.
He also blamed corporate America for not giving workers a bigger slice of the pie.
“I am a capitalist”, Biden noted. “But for God’s sake, contribute and pay your fair share.”