In an incoherent op-ed published by USA Today on Friday morning, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio voiced support for a union drive by Amazon warehouse workers he clearly cares nothing about in an attempt to paint Amazon as a “woke” demon and shame it into backing Republicans in the “culture war.”
“Uniquely malicious corporate behavior like Amazon’s justifies a more adversarial approach to labor relations. It is no fault of Amazon’s workers if they feel the only option available to protect themselves against bad faith is to form a union,” Rubio writes. “Today it might be workplace conditions, but tomorrow it might be a requirement that the workers embrace management’s latest ‘woke’ human resources fad.”
Why is Rubio going after Amazon and Jeff Bezos, whose fortune recently exceeded $200 billion? It’s not entirely clear, which makes the op-ed all the more confusing.
The impetus for Rubio’s op-ed appears to be related to Amazon’s recent decision to pull from its store When Harry Became Sally, a best-selling 2018 book by Ryan T. Anderson that describes the growing societal acceptance of people who identify as transgender as a “belief system that increasingly looks like a cultish religion.” Conservatives hailed the anti-trans book as a needed counterbalance against political correctness, while anyone who actually cares about transgender people condemned it as a repulsive work of bigotry wrapped in a veneer of garbage science.
Appalled by the “censorship” of a book that is widely available from other retailers, Rubio and three of his Republican colleagues in the Senate wrote a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos late last month condemning the company’s decision. “By removing this book from its marketplaces and services, Amazon has unabashedly wielded its outsized market share to silence an important voice merely for the crime of violating woke groupthink,” the senators wrote. Amazon defended pulling the book in a letter to the senators this week, writing that it has “chosen not to sell books that frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness.” Because of this decision and several others, the Florida senator sees support for Amazon workers unionizing as the best way to hurt Amazon itself.
To be clear: Rubio—who in 2019 co-sponsored a bill that would weaken labor unions—does not support labor organizing generally, and the Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama, are not fighting to unionize because Amazon is too “woke.” Indeed, while claiming to “support the workers” on one hand, Rubio goes on to condemn labor unions as bad for business and the right to organize as ultimately “a requirement that business owners allow left-wing social organizers to take over their workplaces.” Rubio’s only mention of “working conditions” is to acknowledge that workers’ attempts to have more say over them are the reason Amazon is “looking to crush the union vote.” Not that Rubio is fighting for better working conditions for anyone, mind you, just that Amazon’s opposition to its employees unionizing is a good opportunity to stir the cauldron of conservative outrage.
Rubio’s op-ed explicitly decries the PRO Act—Democrat-backed legislation currently before Congress that would greatly strengthen U.S. labor organizing—because it “would essentially mandate adversarial relations between labor and management” while simultaneously supporting the Bessemer union drive because he’s calculated that it would do exactly that—but just to Amazon, which he doesn’t seem to like.
If Rubio actually supported Amazon workers, he would back the PRO Act, Medicare for All, and taxes on billionaires like Bezos that would reduce income inequality, further empower working Americans, and help free them from the power that employers hold over their lives. But of course, that’s not why Rubio wrote this op-ed. He’s not supporting every Americans’ right to organize in an attempt to get better wages, working conditions, or benefits—even if he did co-author a statement supporting workers getting a “seat at the table” in corporate America. He’s using Amazon workers as a weapon against a company that’s easy to hate.
Rubio’s right that Amazon’s workers deserve support, that Bezos and other company ghouls see each employee “as a cog in a machine that consistently prioritizes global profit margins,” and that Congress should pass laws that “help build more productive relationships between labor and businesses.” And it’s hard to argue that his support for one labor union harms the progressive cause of bolstering worker rights universally—even if his reasons for doing so are cynical and nonsensical.
Ultimately, however, Rubio’s support for Amazon warehouse workers is no support at all. It’s an insulting ploy to rebrand the GOP as pro-working-class when it’s just anti-Jeff Bezos. And honestly, fuck Jeff Bezos. It would just be nice if Marco Rubio had the courage to say that.