WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden drew loud applause at a labor event on Wednesday when he turned a spotlight on Amazon.com Inc while touting his administration’s efforts to promote unions.
After highlighting a government task force on worker organization he launched a year ago “to make sure the choice to join a union belongs to workers alone,” Biden called out the online retail giant, whose own workers at a New York City warehouse voted last week to unionize.
“And by the way, by the way, Amazon here we come. Watch. Watch,” he said during a speech to the North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) Legislative Conference.
Amazon did not respond to requests for comment.
Widely considered the most pro-union president in decades, Biden has swiftly ousted government officials deemed by unions to be hostile to labor and reversed rules of past President Donald Trump that critics said weakened worker protections.
Asked at a briefing with reporters whether Biden was endorsing unionization at Amazon, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said he was not sending a message that he or the U.S. government would get involved directly in such efforts.
“What he was conveying is his long-time support for collective bargaining, for the rights of workers to organize, and their decision to do exactly that in this case,” she said.
Last week some 55% of workers at a warehouse in the New York City borough of Staten Island voted to form the first U.S. union at Amazon, America’s second-largest private employer, building on recent grassroots successes by labor activists pushing into new industries.
Amazon has said it may file objections, due on Friday, before the election outcome is certified.
Employees at 10 U.S. Starbucks locations have likewise voted to unionize as well.
Biden’s task force, which includes more than 20 heads of agencies and Cabinet officials such as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, seeks to help reverse decades of declining union membership and power, labor experts said.
(Reporting by David Shepardson and Alexandra Alper in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Howard Goller)