Joe Biden put Amazon in his awkward crosshairs
While the president’s pro-union comment was probably sincere, it also inadvertently highlighted his ties with the e-commerce giant.
Addressing a major trade union conference on Wednesday, President Biden touted the importance of unions, in the wake of last week’s unprecedented labor victory at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York.
“That’s what unions are about, in my view,” Biden told the crowd at the North America’s Building Trades Unions national conference: “about providing dignity and respect for people who bust their neck.”
“That’s why I created the White House task force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment,” he continued, citing the commission led by Vice President Kamala Harris and Labor Secretary (and former union boss) Marty Walsh. “To make sure the choice to join a union belongs to workers alone.”
“And by the way,” Biden added, leaning into the microphone for dramatic effect as the crowd cheered him on, “Amazon here we come.”
That Biden would not only name check, but overtly target Amazon — one of the largest corporations on Earth — in his speech to labor unions shows the degree to which last week’s successful union drive on Staten Island has kicked off a broader organizing drive against a company notorious for its zealous (and occasionally illegal) union-busting efforts. Clearly, Biden and labor organizers alike sense the momentum is on their side.
However, despite Biden’s pro-labor bona fides — such as they are — his focus on Amazon in particular presents a conspicuously awkward dilemma. In highlighting the struggle for workers’ rights at the company, Biden inadvertently also brought attention to just how intertwined his political career is with the same forces that tried to stop the very union push he’s now celebrating. Specifically, Biden’s former communications director and Obama administration press secretary Jay Carney is now a top executive at Amazon, and was in fact one of its more public faces as it attempted to smear, discredit, and dismiss union organizers in Alabama and former Staten Island employee Chris Smalls in particular.
What’s more, Amazon also hired a political consulting firm with deep ties to Democratic candidates — and Biden in particular — as one of its chief resources in their anti-union fight. Global Strategy Group, which worked as the polling partner for the pro-Biden mega PAC Priorities USA, reportedly helped Amazon create anti-union videos and literature to be distributed among Staten Island workers, as well as monitored the social media accounts of union organizers there.
This isn’t to say that Biden’s pro-Amazon union invocation isn’t sincere. But given the long and lucrative ties between Amazon and the Democratic Party establishment, it deserves to be taken with a grain of salt.