WASHINGTON – With labor turmoil roiling industries from coast to coast, President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders met with organizers at the White House on Monday to talk about ways to boost union membership.
The organizers represent industries and workplaces that have not traditionally been represented by unions, such as Starbucks coffee shops and video game companies.
Sanders, an independent from Vermont, said outside the White House that more people are “standing up and saying it is important for us to have a union so we can earn better wages, better working conditions, better pensions and dignity on the job.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the president believes that “worker power is essential for growing the economy from the middle out and the bottom up.”
The meeting took place as strikes have been launched and threatened around the country. Entertainment unions representing actors and writers have shut down film and television production over concerns about how revenue is shared in an industry geared more toward streaming content online.
“The president believes all workers, including the writers, including the actors, they deserve a fair pay," Jean-Pierre said. "And they deserve fair benefits.”
She said the administration hopes that "the parties come together and have a mutually beneficial agreement as soon as possible.”
There's already talk of a United Auto Workers strike as contract talks get under way and the industry wrestles with a transition toward electric vehicles. In addition, the Teamsters said its drivers might walk off the job as they struggle to reach a new contract with UPS. Negotiations have a deadline of July 31, and union leader Sean O’Brien said he doesn't want the White House to get involved.
“My neighborhood where I grew up in Boston, if two people had a disagreement and you had nothing to do with it — you just kept walking,” he said on Sunday.
All of this is taking place as Biden pushes the Senate to confirm Julie Su as his new secretary for the Department of Labor. She helped resolve a dispute between dockworkers and shippers, but that has not dislodged her nomination, which is opposed by Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat.
Jean-Pierre said the White House had an “unwavering” commitment to Su and would continue to fight for her.
AP White House correspondent Zeke Miller contributed to this report.