The Biden administration may soon invite Starbucks and Amazon union organizers to the White House, potentially heeding Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vermont) call to do so last week.
As White House insiders told The Washington Post, administration officials are currently in talks with union organizers to organize a potential visit. The meeting has not been finalized, and details are still being worked out, sources said.
This would be a major show of support from the administration for ongoing labor movements that have been surging across the country. Though President Joe Biden has made some moves to support unions and the labor movement, his administration has been largely silent about the issue that has otherwise been making waves within the working class.
White House officials are apparently eager to open a dialogue with labor organizers in order to showcase the resurgence of the labor movement, which they say is a direct result of the administration’s economic policies, according to the Post, though labor organizers have been working to mobilize workers en masse for years and long before this administration came to power.
The meeting discussions appear to be a direct response to Sanders’s call last Sunday for Biden to invite unionizing workers to the White House. During a rally with Amazon workers and union organizers in New York City, Sanders praised Biden for speaking about labor issues but said he can and should go further to support the labor movement.
“What he has got to do is start inviting these guys to the White House,” Sanders said. “He’s got to invite the Starbucks workers to the White House, the other unions that are organizing all over this country, and make it clear that he is on their side and that he is going to do what he can to support labor organizing throughout this country.”
Sanders has been emphasizing that if Democrats want to come out with majorities in Congress after the midterm elections this fall, they need to strongly stand behind the labor movement. Biden should be a leader in that regard and could take steps like canceling Amazon’s contracts with the federal government because of the company’s disregard for federal labor laws in its union-busting campaigns, the Vermont senator said.
Unionizing Starbucks workers have asked lawmakers to be more vocal about their union campaign in order to bring attention to the severe anti-union drive that the company has been waging. Starbucks has fired at least 18 pro-union employees, seemingly because of their involvement with union organizing, though the company alleges otherwise. It is illegal for companies to retaliate against workers for union activity, but current punishments for doing so are lax.
The president of Amazon Labor Union (ALU), which successfully unionized a Staten Island Amazon warehouse last month and lost its election for a second warehouse that voted last week, said that lawmakers should pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act in order to protect unionizing workers and galvanize new movements. Aside from that, Biden can act on his own, he said.
“They have to pass the PRO Act,” ALU President Christian Smalls told Vanity Fair. “If they’re not going to pass the PRO Act, Biden needs to sign an executive order. Simple as that.”
With less than 200 days to go until the midterm elections, vocally supporting workers’ movements could turn out to be a favorable strategy for the White House. Polling from September last year by Gallup showed that support for labor unions is on the rise and is currently at its highest level since 1965 with a 68 percent approval. Recent polling conducted by Blue Rose Research for More Perfect Union has also found that 75 percent of Americans support Amazon’s union efforts.