During a rally with unionizing Amazon workers, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) called on President Joe Biden to do more to support unions, saying that the president should invite the labor organizers to the White House.
In New York City on Sunday, speaking in front of a crowd of Amazon Labor Union (ALU) members and supporters along with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), Sanders commended Biden for praising unions more in speeches and statements than previous presidents have, but said that the president should do more than just talk.
“Does the [Biden] administration need to be doing more to support unions?” one member of the crowd asked.
“Yes,” Sanders replied, to cheers from the crowd. “To his credit, Biden has talked more about unions than any other president in my lifetime. But talk is not enough.”
“What he has got to do is start inviting these guys to the White House,” he continued, gesturing to the ALU organizers standing by the platform. “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.”
In an interview with The New York Times ahead of the rally on Friday, Sanders said that he has made this suggestion directly to the White House, and that he has told the Biden administration to take the time to listen to the workers about their wants, needs, and how the White House can support them.
Aside from flying to meet with both Amazon workers in New York and Starbucks workers in Virginia on Sunday, Sanders has also held virtual town halls with both groups of workers that were live streamed to the public, asking them to share their experiences with union busting at their respective organizations. He has also made moves to leverage his power as a senator to pressure executives to stop union busting.
Biden has generally been supportive of labor unions during his time in office. Earlier this month, in a speech to labor leaders at a union conference, Biden signaled his support for Amazon workers who are in the midst of a unionizing campaign.
He noted that his administration has created a task force that explores and executes ways to better support unions from the federal level, “to make sure the choice to join a union belongs to workers alone.” Then, he said, “and by the way, by the way: Amazon, here we come.” Later, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki walked back this statement, saying that the government wouldn’t be involved in supporting unionizing efforts by Amazon workers.
On the campaign trail, Biden pledged to be the “most pro-union president leading the most pro-union administration in American history.” Though workers have been driving a major resurgence of the labor movement over the past year or so, there are still major roadblocks in union organizing that experts say could be eased by support from the White House.
Even just calling attention to union busting by a company, as Starbucks workers have previously called for from lawmakers, could help garner support for workers’ efforts. However, Biden has yet to comment on the Starbucks union push, which has been an extraordinary force within the labor movement over the past months.