White House Talks With Labor Leaders About Unionization Effort at Amazon Facility: Official

February 4, 2021 Updated: February 4, 2021

The White House has discussed the unionization effort at Amazon with officials linked to the Retail, Wholesale & Department Store Union (RWDSU), according to a union official.

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the RWDSU, told Reuters that labor leaders connected with his union spoke with a top adviser to President Joe Biden after the president was sworn into office on Jan. 20.

The conversation was focused on unionization efforts at a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama.

“We wanted to inform the White House that this campaign was taking place and that they would be hearing about it … we did not make any specific request,” Appelbaum said. “The larger labor movement has indicated to the White House that this is an important campaign, that this is a priority.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki, asked whether Biden supports the unionization efforts, told reporters this week that the president “is a strong, longtime believer and supporter of the efforts of labor unions and workers.” She said she had not spoken with him or the administration’s economic team about the upcoming vote.

The National Labor Relations Board is scheduled to mail ballots to approximately 6,000 warehouse workers at the facility near Birmingham on Feb. 8. Ballots must be received by the close of business on March 29. They’ll be counted the following day by a board agent.

If successful, workers would establish the first union at an Amazon warehouse in the United States, potentially boosting or triggering similar efforts at other locations.

Amazon, the second-largest employer in the United States, has gone on a hiring spree since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as it has seen business boom. The Seattle-based company exceeded 1 million employees last year.

Amazon opposes unionization efforts. The last attempt to unionize by workers was in 2014. It failed.

Company officials have argued that workers receive a good wage, starting at $15 an hour, and that they’re treated well. Union organizers point to health and safety issues in Amazon warehouses and say a union would help protect workers.

Amazon’s anti-union website tells workers they’d have to pay almost $500 in dues and that they should use that money to buy food and gifts instead. The union organizers’ website says Amazon sometimes addresses issues at work, but only temporarily.

Amazon has tried convincing the board to allow an in-person vote amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The board is mulling motions to delay the election and/or switch it from an all-mail vote. The Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union in recent filings urged the board to dismiss the motions, asserting its original decision on how the election would be held was correct.

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