The New York primaries are less than a week away, and Bernie Sanders is fighting for his life. On Wednesday morning, though, Sanders got a big boost in support. In an op-ed published in the New York Times, Jeff Merkley, a senator from Oregon, gave Bernie his first Senate endorsement. Even more importantly, members of New York City’s Transportation Union Workers Local 100 voted almost unanimously in favor of endorsing Bernie Sanders.
Merkley, who is a superdelegate, describes his upbringing in Oregon in a single-income family.
“On a single income, my parents could buy a home, take a vacation and help pay for college. My father worked with his hands as a millwright and built a middle-class life for us.”
Forty years ago, this was the norm. The mother could stay home while the father went off to work. So long as he held a job, families could expect to live a life of moderate comfort at the very least. This is no longer true, which is why Merkley decided to give his endorsement to Sanders over Clinton.
“Many middle-class Americans are working longer for less income than decades ago, even while big-ticket expenses like housing, health care and college have relentlessly pushed higher.”
He describes an economy rigged “by accident and design” against hard-working Americans as a reason so many people are now struggling today, despite holding two, three or even four jobs at once.
Although Merkley praised Hillary Clinton for her record of advocating for children, her work as First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State, he said it was Sanders’ “bold determination” to dismantle the altar of corruption in our economic system that drew his support. Oregon is expected to favor Sanders in its May 17 primary.
On Wednesday morning, the union representing New York City’s transit workers gave Bernie Sanders a resounding endorsement over Hillary Clinton. Sanders visited the Transportation Union Workers Local 100 in Brooklyn to pick up his endorsement and to thank its members.
— John Nichols (@NicholsUprising) April 13, 2016
“We all know in this room that you don’t have a great and growing middle class unless you have a great and growing trade union.”
Sanders also took a jab at the super wealthy in his speech.
“We’ve got to stand together, take on the big money and trusts, and make it clear that our government works for all of us, not just the one percent.”
According to Reuters, the TWU Local 100 represents about 42,000 workers in New York City, and a mostly-unanimous endorsement is not just a big deal for Bernie Sanders, it is also a scathing indictment of Hillary Clinton and her ties to corporate wealth.
Sanders doesn’t just talk a big game. He is the only candidate to join workers and voters protesting against the rigged economy.
Following his acceptance of the TWU’s endorsement, Sanders joined a picket line of Verizon workers. The workers went on strike Wednesday after stalled contract talks.
The Verizon workers are also members of the Communication Workers of America union, whose members have also voted to endorse Sanders. He told the striking workers that what they are doing is important not just for themselves, but for workers everywhere.
“Today you are standing up not just for justice for Verizon workers. You’re standing up for millions of Americans.”
— John Nichols (@NicholsUprising) April 13, 2016
Both unions polled members prior to revealing their endorsement choices. On the other hand, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers officially endorsed Hillary Clinton on Wednesday. The IBEW Local 3 chapter did this even after large numbers of its members had urged leaders to endorse Bernie Sanders.
After IBEW Local 3’s Clinton endorsement was announced, the union’s Facebook page was flooded with angry comments. Many questioned the leadership about their lack of engagement with members. The admin for the group implied that the reason they had chosen Clinton over Sanders was because Clinton “reached out” to the union leaders while Sanders had not.
“We are not opposed to Bernie. If you wanna vote for Bernie go for it. Bernie has never reached out to us for our endorsement. Hillary has. We love Bernie … but Hillary’s the one!”
“Bernie Sanders is walking the Verizon picket line with our own members today, and you endorse his opponent just because her team asked you to and his didn’t? Actions speak louder than words. Nice job.”
— IBEW (@IBEW) April 13, 2016
Another member directly called for the union leadership to allow members to vote on it.
“Do what all the other locals have done, put a resolution in front of the body and vote on it.”
Another member of IBEW described Sanders’ work on the picket lines as a way Sanders “reached out” to union workers.
“Bernie Sanders has been busy reaching out to unions by actually marching with them and fighting for progressive issues tooth and nail… he’s even been doing speeches and working hand in hand with local IBEW chapters.”
Earlier in the campaign, the IBEW had refrained from supporting any candidate partly due to a letter-writing campaign by its members who wanted the union to officially endorse Sanders.
Regardless of official endorsements, once thing is clear: When the membership votes, Bernie wins. When leadership chooses, Clinton wins. This is true even with non-union organizations such as Planned Parenthood, NARAL and Human Rights Campaign, all of which bypassed their members and instead chose at the executive or board levels to endorse Clinton. Like the IBEW members, the majority of paying members for these organizations were angry that they had not been consulted.
Jeff Merkley’s endorsement and the TWU endorsement illustrate how much momentum Sanders has gained throughout the Democratic race for the nomination. When the people have a choice, it appears clear who they favor. And the people want Bernie Sanders.
[Photo by Mary Altaffer/AP Images]