US VP Kamala Harris To Meet Amazon Labor Union At White House

The White House. Image credit: US government

Biden support for unionisation. Grassroots Amazon trade union, as well as other trade unions are to meet with the American vice president

The support by the Biden Administration for the growing trend of unionisation within the US workforce has been placed on display on Thursday.

US Vice President Kamala Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh are to meet with organisers from trade unions seeking to represent workers at, Starbucks and other employers in America, CNN reported.

This includes Amazon Labor Union’s (ALU) Christian Smalls, the former Amazon employee who helped successfully organise workers at an Amazon facility in Staten Island.

Image credit: Amazon
Image credit: Amazon

White House meeting

In early April, Amazon for the first time in it’s nearly 28-year history, saw staff at the JFK8 warehouse in the New York City borough of Staten Island vote for organised labour.

Amazon is appealing that decision, and there are reports it has grounds for its complaint against the local office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The ALU is led by Chris Smalls, the former Amazon worker who was fired after leading a protest at JFK8, over working conditions during the pandemic.

Amazon said Smalls was fired for repeatedly violating social distancing guidelines.

New York’s attorney general Letitia James is currently suing Amazon for allegedly retaliating against Smalls.

Besides the meeting the ALU and others at the White House, VP Harris and other Biden officials, Smalls is also scheduled to testify Thursday in a Senate Budget Committee hearing that’s expected to focus on Amazon’s federal contracts.

“There’s a lot of work we need to do to improve the labor laws in this country so that workers are protected while organizing,” Smalls told CNN.

He added that he is “looking forward” to visiting the Senate, but he did not say whether he would be attending meetings or if so with whom.

Known supporter

President Biden is known to be sympathetic towards unionising of workforces, as are prominent Democrats including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders as well as Stacey Abrams.

However the official White House position on the matter is that workers should be free to decide for themselves whether to unionise and that they should not be intimidated, threatened or coerced during the decision.

But in March 2021 President Biden voiced his support for Amazon workers at a fulfilment centre in Bessemer Alabama who were looking to create a trade union.

But those workers at the facility overwhelmingly voted against joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union in April 2021.

Amazon denied subsequent allegations that it’s agents unlawfully threatened employees with closure of the warehouse if they joined the union, and also denied the company emailed a warning it would lay off 75 percent of the proposed bargaining unit because of the union.

The NLRB however in August 2021 recommended that the vote should be rerun, and this has been confirmed, although no date has yet been set.