Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

"Today you are standing up for millions of Americans. And you're telling corporate America they cannot have it all," presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders told striking Verizon workers in New York City on April 13. (Photo: Bernie Sanders campaign)

"Today you are standing up for millions of Americans. And you're telling corporate America they cannot have it all," presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders told striking Verizon workers in New York City on April 13. (Photo: Bernie Sanders campaign)

Standing with Workers Against 'Corporate Greed,' Bernie Joins Verizon Picket Line

Presidential hopeful also picks up endorsement of NY Transit Workers Union

Lauren McCauley

Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders took a break from campaigning to join striking workers on a picket line in New York City on Wednesday after Verizon employees launched what could be the largest work stoppage the country has seen in a generation.

As Sanders approached the podium outside a Manhattan Verizon office, the striking workers erupted in cheers and chants of "Bernie! Bernie!" before the Vermont senator launched into his speech.

"Thank you for your courage in standing up for justice against corporate greed," Sanders told the crowd.  "Verizon is one of the largest most profitable corporations in this country. But they refuse to sit down and negotiate a fair contract."

"They want to take away the health benefits that you have earned," he said. "They want to outsource to decent paying jobs. They want to give their CEO $20 million a year in compensation."

"In other words," he continued, "this is just another major American corporation trying to destroy the lives of working Americans. Today you are standing up—not just for justice for Verizon workers—you are standing up for millions of Americans."

"And you're telling corporate America they cannot have it all," Sanders added to loud applause.

Sanders has made reforming the country's "rigged" economy a pillar of his presidential campaign. During the speech, the candidate acknowledged "what a difficult decision it is to go out on strike" given the "price" the workers' families would pay.

"But you have chosen to stand up for dignity, for justice, and to take on an enormously powerful special interest," he declared. "So on behalf of every worker in America that is facing the same kind of pressure, thank you for what you are doing. We are going to win this thing!"

Watch his speech below:

Roughly 40,000 members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) unions launched the strike Wednesday as Verizon employees from Virginia to Massachusetts protested the multinational's "devastating" cuts. As Common Dreams reported earlier this week, these measures include freezing pensions, slashing benefits, offshoring jobs to low-paying nations, and refusing to negotiate with workers.

In the days leading up to the strike, Sanders lambasted Verizon's "greed" and met with workers from CWA, which endorsed the senator in December.

Sanders' picket line appearance underscored his commitment to labor issues. Earlier in the day Wednesday, the candidate received the endorsement of the New York Transit Workers Union, which represents 42,000 NYC-area transit workers, and whose Executive Board voted almost unanimously (42-1) to endorse Sanders.

"In Bernie Sanders, we see a kindred spirit," TWU Local 100 president John Samuelsen said to an enthusiastic crowd of about 300 transit workers at the Brooklyn union hall. "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!"

This is not the first time Sanders has joined picketing workers during his presidential campaign, having stood alongside striking workers in Iowa and a local Verizon picket in New York City last fall.

At the time, Huffington Post labor reporter Dave Jamieson noted, "[b]oth candidates have placed economic inequality at the core of their campaigns as they seek the nomination, though it's much harder to imagine Clinton walking a picket line aimed at a telecom giant."

For her part, Hillary Clinton issued a statement Wednesday in support of the workers saying that Verizon "should do the right thing and return to negotiations."

However, when it comes to policy, the two candidates have markedly different approaches to achieving labor rights.

On Tuesday, the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ leadership PAC sent a letter to both Democratic candidates calling for them to commit to passing the "Model Employer Executive Order," which as Jamieson and Huffpo colleague Sam Stein explain, "would steer government contracts toward companies that uphold strong workplace standards."

Spokesman Warren Gunnels responded, saying that "Sanders is proud to commit to this," further noting that the Vermont senator was one of 19 lawmakers who called for President Barack Obama to issue the order last May.

Alternately, the Clinton camp said the former Secretary of State "strongly shares the goal of using the tools the federal government has to encourage employers to take the high road," which the reporters described as a "wait-and-see approach."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Architect of Texas Abortion Ban Takes Aim at LGBTQ+ Rights While Urging Reversal of Roe

"Make no mistake, the goal is to force extreme, outdated, religious-driven values on all of us through the courts."

Jessica Corbett ·

Ahead of Canadian Election, Bernie Sanders and Rashida Tlaib Endorse NDP

"Bernie, you have fought courageously for public healthcare, affordable medication, making the rich pay their fair share, and tackling the climate crisis," said party leader Jagmeet Singh. "We're doing the same here."

Jessica Corbett ·

US Urged to End Drone Strikes After Pentagon Says Killing 10 Afghan Civilians Was 'Horrible Mistake'

"That was not a 'mistake,'" said journalist Anand Giridharadas. "War crimes are not oopsies."

Brett Wilkins ·

40+ NYC Activists Arrested for Protests Against Banks Fueling Climate Emergency

"We're sending a message loud and clear that the little action that politicians and greenwashing CEOs have taken so far does not begin to deal with the magnitude of this crisis."

Jessica Corbett ·

FDA Panel Recommends Pfizer Booster Shots for People 65+ and Especially Vulnerable

The scientific advisory committee voted down a recommendation for other adults.

Common Dreams staff ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo