IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

President Biden follows through with pro-union message

Biden assured workers he'd be "the most pro-union president you've ever seen." His statement on Kellogg's suggests he meant it.

It was in early October when unionized workers at Kellogg's factories went on strike, seeking better compensation and safer working conditions. Negotiations have not gone well: The company announced plans last week to hire permanent replacements for the striking workers.

As NBC News noted, the developments were not well received at the White House.

President Joe Biden said Friday that he was "deeply troubled" by reports of Kellogg's plan to permanently replace striking plant workers as the union haggles for a new contract involving 1,400 employees.

"...I am deeply troubled by reports of Kellogg's plans to permanently replace striking workers from the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International during their ongoing collective bargaining negotiations," Biden said in a written statement. "Permanently replacing striking workers is an existential attack on the union and its members' jobs and livelihoods. I have long opposed permanent striker replacements and I strongly support legislation that would ban that practice.

"And such action undermines the critical role collective bargaining plays in providing workers a voice and the opportunity to improve their lives while contributing fully to their employer's success. Unions built the middle class of this country. My unyielding support for unions includes support for collective bargaining, and I will aggressively defend both."

To be sure, there's a difference between official statements and official action. That said, there's not a lot Biden can do to prevent Kellogg's from hiring permanent replacement workers, aside from applying public pressure — which is exactly what he did.

There's some compelling anecdotal evidence to suggest striking workers not only noticed the presidential statement, but also celebrated it.

It's part of an interesting pattern. Circling back to our coverage from the spring, Candidate Biden used to tell Democratic audiences that his support for labor was so consistent, he earned a reputation as "Union Joe." The month before his presidential inauguration, Biden assured workers he'd be "the most pro-union president you've ever seen."

I think he meant it. In March, the Democratic president released a striking video closely tied to an unionization vote in Alabama. It was by some measures the boldest pro-labor declaration made by a sitting American president in recent memory.

Soon after, Biden formally endorsed the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act), which would make it easier for workers to form unions and effectively end so-called "right to work" laws that currently exist in 28 states.

The bill has already cleared the Democratic-led House, but it's facing a Republican filibuster in the evenly divided Senate. That said, there are elements of the PRO Act in the Build Back Better package, which may yet fail because of Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.