April 14, 2016
By Steven Wishnia
New York, NY—The city’s transit workers are taking the Vermonter. Bernie Sanders is “the best chance for the working people of America,” Transport Workers Union Local 100 President John Samuelsen told members April 13. The union’s executive committee voted unanimously to support the Vermont senator. (Live Audio Below)
“Brothers and sisters, there is no doubt that America needs a jolt,” Samuelsen said while introducing Sanders at Local 100’s downtown Brooklyn headquarters. “The best way to break down pay disparity for women is to grow the trade-union movement in America, and that will not happen with business-as-usual politics. But it will happen with Bernie Sanders.”
He called Sanders a “kindred spirit” and “a true champion of our cause” who has been “fighting against the powers that be in this country on behalf of American workers his entire life.” Another reason for the endorsement, he told LaborPress afterwards, was Sanders’ “complete and total opposition to the disastrous free-trade agreements that have destroyed American workers’ ability to make a living.”
The 42,000-member Local 100 is the second-largest union in New York State to endorse Sanders, after the Communications Workers of America. The national TWU has not made an endorsement, says President Harry Lombardo. New York City’s biggest unions, including 1199SEIU, District Council 37, and the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, have endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.
“I am grateful to have the support of this fantastic union,” Sanders told the crowd. “John is right. It is too late for the same-old, same-old establishment politics. We’ve got to stand together, take on the big-money interests, and make it clear that our government works for all of us, not just the one percent.”
He pledged that “together we will” raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, fight to achieve equal pay for women, and end “disastrous trade agreements” that enable corporations to say, “You don’t want to take a cut in your health care and your wages? We’re going to China.”
“We all know that you don’t have a great and growing middle class unless you have a great and growing trade-union movement,” he continued, vowing to push for legislation that would enable workers to form unions by card check. “In fact, you could argue that it is the trade unions of today that are the last line of defense against a vicious corporate agenda that is trying to destroy the middle class.”
He said he would also implement a $1 trillion program to “rebuild our crumbling infrastructure,” from the water supply in Flint, Michigan to mass transit and rail. While this would create “13 million good-paying jobs,” he added, mass transit and rail are not just an economic necessity: Expanding them is part of our “moral responsibility” to curtail climate change. He said he would pay it by ending “the outrageous loopholes” that allow corporations to evade paying $100 billion a year taxes by moving to places like the Cayman Islands.
“As soon as we leave here, we’re going right over to a picket line with the CWA to stand against the greed of Verizon,” he concluded.
An hour later, he was on an impromptu stage outside the company’s downtown Brooklyn call center, speaking to a crowd of several hundred strikers.
Check out live audio of today's Sanders endosement in Brooklyn.