May 5, 2022 - Economy

Biden meets with Amazon Labor Union leader at White House

President Joe Biden and Christian Smalls.

President Biden and Christian Smalls. Photo: White House

President Joe Biden on Thursday met with Christian Smalls, the president of the Amazon Labor Union, along with other grassroots worker organizers at the White House.

Driving the news: There has been a sustained push for unions among workers from companies like Amazon and Starbucks, and Biden has broadly expressed support for these efforts.

What they're saying: "Just met the President lol he said I got him in trouble," Smalls tweeted after the meeting.

Details: Vice President Kamala Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh held a roundtable discussion with the organizers.

  • The group was there to discuss their efforts to organize unions in their workplaces and how these efforts "can inspire workers across the country to make the choice to join or organize a union," the White House said in a statement.
  • Biden stopped by the discussion, thanking workers for their leadership in helping build momentum for more unions.
  • Other attendees included representatives from Starbucks Workers United and United Paizo Workers/CWA.

State of play: Smalls met Biden after appearing in a Senate hearing Thursday that looked at whether the White House should offer contracts to companies that are accused of unfair labor practices, CNBC reports.

  • Smalls sparred directly with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who said Sen. Bernie Sanders only called the hearing because of his political bias against Amazon.
  • “This is very dangerous. You can have oversight hearings all you like, but you’ve determined Amazon is a piece of crap company. That’s your political bias," Graham said, per CNBC.
  • Smalls later challenged Graham, saying, “You forgot that the people are the ones who make these companies operate."

The bigger picture: Biden has expressed support for Amazon unionization in the past.

  • After a Staten Island warehouse voted in favor of unionization — the first time a union had been formed by Amazon workers — Biden called out the company by name, saying, "Amazon here we come."
  • Press secretary Jen Psaki later had to clarify Biden was not saying the government would take direct action in the effort.

Go deeper: "Amazon here we come": Biden touts warehouse unionization efforts

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