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 statement. “Collective bargaining is an essential tool to protect the rights of workers that should be free from threats and intimidation from employers.”
“Permanently replacing striking workers is an existential attack on the union and its members’ jobs and livelihoods,” he added. “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.”
This is great. But…..does it matter? What if Kellogg’s just tells Biden to fuck off? Because he holds no power over them. The legal precedent is quite clear that Kellogg’s can do this. In other words, we want our president to speak out on issues of justice. But we often forget that the president only has limited power, especially in a highly divided politics with a highly divided party that allows Joe Manchin to be our personal lord and savior, a role he very much savors. Like when Biden spoke out in favor of the Amazon union in Alabama, this becomes a time to remember that as much as we want a president to save us, this is not how change happens. Biden can do whatever he wants here, but it’s highly unclear that he really does have any power. Again, I’m really glad he’s speaking up. But this is an object lesson for reminding us how change happens–from organizing, not from just electing the right person.