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Marco Rubio backs Amazon union push, cites company’s ‘culture wars’

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Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama got a surprise ally in US Sen. Marco Rubio, with the conservative lawmaker revealing on Friday that he supports their efforts to unionize.

The Republican senator from Florida published an op-ed in USA Today that accused Amazon of waging “a war against working-class values” as he threw his support behind the workers in Bessemer, Ala. who have been voting since February on whether to organize a distribution facility there. 

Rubio blasted the Seattle-based e-tailing giant and its billionaire boss, Jeff Bezos, for trying to appeal to conservatives’ traditional rejection of labor unions even as it sides with liberals on cultural issues.

“For decades, companies like Amazon have been allies of the left in the culture war,” he said. “But when their bottom line is threatened they turn to conservatives to save them.”

Rubio likewise blasted Amazon for using its heft to “crush small businesses” and ban conservative books from its website and traditional charities from participating in its AmazonSmile program.

Earlier this month, four members of Congress including Rubio wrote to Amazon about its move to yank “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment,” a book published by the conservative scholar Ryan T. Anderson in 2018, but which recently disappeared from Amazon’s website, Kindle store and Audible audiobook platform.

Amazon Fulfillment Center in Bessamer, Alabama, where workers are voting on whether to unionize.
Amazon Fulfillment Center in Bessamer, Alabama, where workers are voting on whether to unionize.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

This week, Amazon defended its decision, saying it did so because the book frames the LGBTQ identity as a mental illness. The legislators had previously complained about the move, saying that Amazon only removes things that liberals find offensive.

In attacking Amazon’s labor practices, Rubio also cited his memories as a young boy walking the picket line with his father, who was a hotel bartender in Las Vegas. Rubio said his experience instilled in him the idea that “all workers deserve respect” and that Amazon views its employees as “cog in a machine.”

In his push for workers, Rubio joins President Biden, who earlier this month released a video on his social media account expressing his support for the workers in Bessemer. While the president didn’t specifically mention Amazon by name, he said they have a right to vote without interference from their employer.

In a statement Friday Amazon said, “When Senator Rubio says Amazon is ‘waging war on working class values,’ does he mean our $15 starting wage, comprehensive benefits, or the paid parental leave we provide for hourly workers? If he stands with American workers like he says he does, he should endorse Senator Sanders’ minimum wage bill today.”

Amazon launched a website — doitwithoutdues.com — aimed at discouraging its employees from organizing. One of the taglines on the site is “Vote Now and Vote No.”

The push to organize Amazon’s Alabama warehouse is being led by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. On Friday, RWDSU president Stuart Appelbaum welcomed Rubio’s support, saying it “demonstrates that the best way for working people to achieve dignity and respect in the workplace is through unionization. This should not be a partisan issue.”

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