Biden meets with labor organizer at Amazon after Senate hearing

WASHINGTON, May 5 (Reuters) – President Joe Biden met on Thursday with a labor leader who organizes workers at Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) and other worker organizers hours after the chairman of the commission of the US Senate budget Bernie Sanders criticized the online retailer during a hearing. on the company’s working practices.

Christian Smalls, who heads the Amazon Labor Union, said on Twitter that he met Biden shortly after Smalls harshly criticized Amazon during the Senate hearing. A White House official confirmed the meeting to Reuters.

Workers at an Amazon warehouse in New York recently voted to form the first union for America’s second largest private employer and join the Amazon Labor Union under the leadership of Smalls, a former worker who has advocated for a increased wages and job security. Read more

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Last month, Biden drew loud applause at a union event when he shone the spotlight on Amazon.

After shedding light on a government task force on organizing workers that it launched a year ago “to ensure that the choice to join a union rests with workers alone,” Amazon called out during of the April 6 event.

“And by the way, by the way, Amazon here we come. Look. Look,” Biden said.

Sanders said during Thursday’s hearing that “Amazon did everything possible – legal and illegal – to frustrate the organizing efforts.”

But the company won bipartisan support at the hearing, including from Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, a state with a strong Amazon presence.

“I don’t think Amazon is an organized criminal syndicate,” Kaine said, adding that he supports efforts to make it easier for workers to organize. “Amazon employs a million Americans – not everyone hates their job at Amazon.”

Sanders approached Amazon Chairman Jeff Bezos, who had been asked to testify but did not show up.

“Given all your wealth, how much do you need? Why are you doing everything in your power, including breaking the law, to deny Amazon workers the right to join a union so that ‘they can negotiate better wages, better working conditions and better benefits? Sanders asked. “How much do you need?”

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Senator Lindsey Graham, the top Republican on the panel, criticized Sanders for singling out Amazon. “It’s an effort to get an outcome you want using the US Senate as a vehicle. It’s very dangerous,” he said. “You can have watchdog hearings all you want, but you determine that Amazon is a crap company. It’s your political bias.”

Sean O’Brien, general president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, said one way to hold Amazon accountable is for the government to resume contracts with the companies “until they are a responsible employer.”

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris hosted a meeting at the White House on Thursday with Smalls and union leaders seeking to represent workers at Amazon, Starbucks Corp (SBUX.O) and other employers.

Last week, Sanders urged Biden to issue an executive order cutting federal contracts at Amazon, saying the online retailer “has become the star of illegal union busting while raking in billions in federal contracts.” Read more

Amazon workers voted against unionizing a second warehouse in New York, a vote tally showed on Monday, marking a defeat for union organizers just weeks after celebrating their first U.S. victory at the retailer in line. Read more

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Reporting by David Shepardson and Nandita Bose in Washington Editing by Chris Sanders and Matthew Lewis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

About Charles D. Goolsby

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