On Monday, a large crowd of SEA/SEIU Local 1984 members and guests greeted presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at a town hall forum.
The event with the junior Vermont senator was the fifth in a series, aimed at engaging candidates with our Unions for All campaign. Sanders began by talking about his working-class upbringing in a rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn, N.Y., and how that set him on the path to fight for those often left behind.
“I am the son of the American working class, I am proud of that and as president of the United States, it is the working class of this country that I will fight for,” Sanders said. “We are going to transform this country and create a government and an economy that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent.”
Late this summer, Sanders was one of three presidential hopefuls who visited Rockingham County Rehabilitation and Nursing Center as workers there were about to vote on whether to unionize. Sanders was struck by the selflessness of what those workers told him as he led a rally outside the center.
“The first words out of their mouths were really not ‘we need more money,’ the first words were ‘our patients need better care, we need better staffing, we need to attract people,’” Sanders said. “That was really moving.”
There was much discussion about one of Sanders’ hallmark proposals – Medicare for All. Some labor unions have opposed the proposal because those unions have spent decades making concessions at the bargaining table to keep healthcare costs down.
Garrett Graaskamp, a member of Chapter 50 (Department of Environmental Services), asked Sanders “how and what would you do to ensure that unions are successful in securing wage increases equal to the value of the savings gained from the improved health care system?”
Sanders spent a few minutes detailing how his Medicare for All plan would benefit all Americans before directly addressing Graaskamp’s concern.
“We understand that you have given up wage increases in order to protect or improve your health care,” Sanders said. “Under Medicare for All, the state of New Hampshire, the state of Vermont, and every employer in America will pay substantially less for your healthcare than you’re paying now. What we’ve built into our legislation is the understanding that those benefits, those savings, go to the workers.”
You can find more information on the presidential race on our Primary 2020 page and you can watch a stream of the entire event below:
Published Nov. 26, 2019