Bernie Sanders joins Cambridge rally for workers’ rights, highlighting Massachusetts labor battles
Before taking the stage at a rally for workers’ rights in Cambridge on Sunday afternoon, Senator Bernie Sanders made his way to Starbucks with a megaphone and a Teamsters hat. At a unionized Starbucks store in Boston, Sanders joined a picket line that garnered national attention as the longest-running strike of its kind in the country.
“When you’re here on this picket line, you’re not just speaking for yourselves, you’re speaking for millions and millions of people in Boston and Vermont and across the country,” Sanders told workers, who reached day 36 of their strike on Sunday. “People are sick of seeing people at the top doing phenomenally well as they fall further and further behind.”
Teamsters President Sean O’Brien and Flight Attendants Association President Sara Nelson joined Sanders on a tour of cities “where workers are fighting, to elevate those fights,” Nelson said, who accompanied Sanders to rallies this summer in Philadelphia and Chicago.
“We’ve seen all of this strike and labor organizing activity come out of Boston,” Nelson said, “and it inspires a lot of other people to take action.”
Sunday’s rally on Cambridge Common – a crowd of around 1,500 gathered in the park – highlighted local labor battles, including testimonies from members of the MIT Graduate Student Union, Massachusetts Nurses Association and trade unions Boston-based Starbucks.
Labor issues are “the same everywhere,” Nelson said, with each labor group representing a small part of a larger movement that has grown across the country, spurred by frustrations that have emerged from the COVID pandemic. -19.
“What COVID has done is shine a light on the profits in the pockets of banks and Wall Street profiteers while working class wages have held steady or actually fallen,” Nelson told GBH News. . “During COVID, workers were treated as disposable, and that created solidarity everywhere.”
Union election petitions increased by 57% in the first half of the 2021-2022 financial year, According to the National Labor Relations Council. Unlikely victories Amazon and dozens of Starbucks locations fueled the union boom. Workers reached across industries, exchanging strategies and seeking solidarity within a national network.
When Pavement Coffeehouse workers started a petition in June of last year to become the state’s first unionized independent coffeehouse chain, baristas working to unionize Starbucks locations in Buffalo, New York, took notes from Pavement organizers, who ratified their contract with management earlier this month.
“Things like Pavement are things that really inspire other workers to take action,” Nelson said. “The corporate class would have us believe that we are incredibly divided, that we are on the brink of the collapse of our democracy and a potential civil war – yet when you come to America and start talking about these working class issues, there is overwhelming majority support, supermajority support.I think these organizing campaigns are actually a reflection of what is really going on in America.
As one of the largest college towns in the nation, Boston has become a hub of labor organizing, Nelson says, driven by an enthusiastic younger generation. “You can see it happening here,” she said. “The trade union movement has always been most dynamic when young people take charge of it.
The shape – and strength – of unions has changed, said Teamsters President Sean O’Brien, recalling his experience growing up in a Teamsters family in Boston, hearing the stories of four generations of union truck drivers and workers. a mother who instilled a sense of union solidarity in him as a child.
“It’s time we did a better job of educating the next generation of workers because most of the next generation of workers we see in the workplace right now have never had a generational connection to unions” , O’Brien said during The Rally on Sunday. “They don’t know how difficult it is to protect, preserve and improve working conditions. We have to teach them to fight.
The struggle, Sanders told the crowd, comes down to a battle between an “extremely powerful oligarchy” and working-class people making their coffee and delivering their packages. Echoing the underpinnings of his 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns, Sanders underscored the power of unions in the fight for universal health care, raising the minimum wage and eliminating student debt.
“The billionaires have the money, we have the people,” Sanders said. “Our job now, for the sake of our children and future generations, is to unite and proclaim loud and clear, as Woody Guthrie did long ago: this land is our land.”