If media outlets paid even minimal attention to the struggles of working people, and to the organizations that represent them in those struggles, the last few days on the New York City campaign trail would have been recognized as a significant turning point in the 2016 presidential race: when a candidate for the Democratic presidential candidate backed striking workers so aggressively that he sparked a clash with some of the nation’s most powerful corporate CEOs.
On Wednesday morning, in New York, one of the city’s oldest and politically engaged union locals gave Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders its enthusiastic endorsement. “In Bernie Sanders, we see a kindred spirit,” Transport Union Workers Local 100 President John Samuelsen told 300 transit workers who attended a Brooklyn rally to announce the endorsement by the legendary union local, which represents roughly 40,000 workers and tens of thousands of retirees. “Bernie Sanders has been fighting against the ‘powers that be’ in this country on behalf of all American workers his entire life. That’s what this country needs. That’s what American workers need. A true champion of our cause!”
Shortly after he accepted the TWU endorsement, Sanders was championing the union cause on a picket line with striking Verizon workers. “I know your families are going to pay a price,” Sanders shouted as the workers cheered. “On behalf of every worker in America who is facing the same kind of pressure, thank you for what you’re doing. We’re going to win this thing!”
Sanders has been endorsed by the Communications Workers of America, one of the unions representing the 39,000 Verizon landline and cable employees who walked off the job on Wednesday in a critical fight to ensure that workers get a fair share in the digital economy. Sanders’s rival for the Democratic nomination, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, has received a number of important union endorsements, including those of the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the Service Employees International Union, and, just this week, Local 3 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in New York. On Wednesday, Clinton showed support for the Verizon strikers and her campaign issued a statement in which Clinton said she was “disappointed” that negotiations between Verizon and its unions had broken down.