“The choice to join a union is up to the workers—full stop. Full stop,” Biden continued. “Today and over the next few days and weeks workers in Alabama and all across America are voting on whether to organize a union in their workplace. This is vitally important, a vitally important choice as America grapples with the deadly pandemic, the economic crisis, and the reckoning on race—what it reveals the deep disparities that still exist in our country.”

“And there should be no intimidation, no coercion, no threats, no anti-union propaganda,” Biden concluded. “No supervisor should confront employees about their union preferences... Every worker should have a free and fair choice to join a union. The law guarantees that choice. And it’s your right, not that of an employer, it’s your right. No employer can take that right away.”


The New York Times wrote it is “unusual” for presidents to weigh in on specific labor disputes (a sentiment that may only run in one direction, given the last administration’s unrelentingly hostile stance towards the labor movement and federal union busting attempts). The Washington Post wrote that Biden’s rebuttal is “striking” because Amazon’s senior vice president of global affairs, whiny corporate mouthpiece Jay Carney, served as the White House press secretary under Barack Obama and Biden’s administration. Carney was doubtlessly brought on under the expectation his tenure in the executive branch could help the company grease the wheels in D.C.

Faiz Shakir, a former aide to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, is the founder of More Perfect Union, one of the many labor advocacy groups that have urged Biden to speak out in favor of the Alabama union effort. Shakir told the Post that Biden’s statement was the biggest show of support for unionization to come from the White House in many years.


“We haven’t had this aggressive and positive of a statement from a president of the United States on behalf of workers in decades,” Shakir said. “It is monumental that you have a president sending a message to workers across the country that if you take the courageous step to start to unionize you will have allies in the administration, the NLRB, and the Labor Department. It means a lot.”

“It’s almost unprecedented in American history,” Erik Loomis, a University of Rhode Island labor historian, also told the Post. “We have the sense that previous presidents in the mid-20th century were overtly pro-union, but that really wasn’t the case. Even [Franklin Delano Roosevelt] never really came out and told workers directly to support a union.”


While Biden’s support for the Amazon effort is a major development, undoing Trump-era damage to the labor movement and institutions like the NLRB isn’t going to happen on a timeline anywhere close to overnight. The NLRB was controlled by Trump appointees who were eagerly used their power to launch sweeping assaults on workers’ rights, their ability to organize, and rules holding employers accountable.

The Biden administration’s new acting general counsel at the NLRB, Peter Sung Ohr, has rolled back numerous Trump-era directives. But Biden has yet to act on on major labor law reforms like the proposed Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which would add teeth to the NLRB’s regulatory authority, as well as prevent employers from forcing unions into bargaining impasses and implementing pro-management contracts.