NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, February 10th, 2020

Labor for Bernie rallies in Seattle ahead of Washington’s March 10th presidential primary

On a brisk and windy Sat­ur­day after­noon, an enthu­si­as­tic crowd gath­ered in a meet­ing hall inside the Labor Tem­ple Asso­ci­a­tion in Seattle’s Bell­town neigh­bor­hood. The crowd of labor activists had come to hear rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Sen­a­tor Bernie Sanders’ pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, and learn how they could take part in the polit­i­cal move­ment that the Ver­mont social­ist is try­ing to build across the coun­try.

UFCW 21's Sue Wilmont

UFCW 21’s Sue Wilmont address­es fel­low Sanders sup­port­ers in Seat­tle (Pho­to: Ruairi Vaughan/Seattle)

The after­noon start­ed with rous­ing speech­es by mem­bers of Unit­ed Food and Com­mer­cial Work­ers (UFCW) Local 21, Wash­ing­ton state’s largest pri­­vate-sec­­tor labor union. Sue Wilmont, a gro­cery work­er and union leader who (like our Exec­u­tive Direc­tor) served as a Sanders del­e­gate at the 2016 Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion, praised Sen­a­tor Sanders’ Medicare for All pol­i­cy, and laud­ed Sanders for hav­ing “the most pro-work­er pol­i­cy out­look” of any pres­i­den­tial can­di­date.

After hear­ing direct­ly from union rep­re­sen­ta­tives, the next to speak was Con­gress­woman Prami­la Jaya­pal, who rep­re­sents Washington’s 7th Dis­trict.

Jaya­pal, one of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives’ most effec­tive pro­gres­sives, recent­ly endorsed Sanders’ pres­i­den­tial bid and cur­rent­ly works as the campaign’s state chair. She also serves as the Sanders campaign’s health pol­i­cy chair.

Pramila Jayapal speaking at a Sanders campaign event

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jaya­pal is an hon­orary co-chair of the Sanders cam­paign, and serves as a health pol­i­cy co-chair (Pho­to: Ruairi Vaughan/NPI)

Jayapal’s speech cov­ered many of Bernie Sanders’ key rhetor­i­cal points – the neces­si­ty of Medicare For All, stronger labor unions, and tak­ing on sys­temic inequal­i­ties – and tying them to Wash­ing­ton State’s lead­er­ship on many pro­gres­sive issues. She also drew par­al­lels between Sen­a­tor Sanders’ polit­i­cal career and her own, high­light­ing the fact that Sanders helped found the Con­gres­sion­al Pro­gres­sive Cau­cus which she now co-chairs.

Turn­ing to Sanders’ pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, she made it clear that it is essen­tial that the next pres­i­dent is more than an anti-Trump: “Trump is both a symp­tom and a cause, he is both things. He didn’t emerge out of nowhere.” Jaya­pal high­light­ed the many struc­tur­al inequal­i­ties that Sanders is deter­mined to tack­le, and argued that only a moment-based cam­paign will be able to suc­ceed in those aims.

Supreet Kaur

Supreet Kaur is the Sanders cam­paign’s nation­al Asian Amer­i­can and Pacif­ic Islander orga­niz­er (Pho­to: Ruairi Vaughan/NPI)

After Jaya­pal, the stage was tak­en by Supreet Kaur, the Sanders campaign’s Nation­al Asian Amer­i­can and Pacif­ic Islanders Orga­niz­er. Ms. Kaur told the crowd her sto­ry, mov­ing to the USA from India, and then launched into prac­ti­cal mat­ters. She care­ful­ly coached the atten­dees on how to vol­un­teer, cau­cus, and talk to friends about Bernie Sanders’ cam­paign. She also gave a crash-course on how to use the BERN App, which helps vol­un­teers to track poten­tial sup­port­ers, know when key pri­maries and cau­cus­es are tak­ing place, and reg­is­ter peo­ple to vote.

Most of the atten­dees were enthu­si­as­tic sup­port­ers of Sen­a­tor Bernie Sanders, and offered a diverse set of rea­sons for their sup­port.

Bernie signs at a campaign rally

The union hall was packed with enthu­si­as­tic Bernie fans (Pho­to: Ruairi Vaughan/NPI)

Tom, a rail­road con­sul­tant (who has been a polit­i­cal activist since the ear­ly 1960s) said that he has been impressed by Sanders’ long record of anti-war activism and stand­ing up for civ­il rights. Nate, an elec­tri­cian, argued that Medicare for All would make rais­ing his two chil­dren more afford­able.

Mubarak, a soft­ware engi­neer high­light­ed the diverse sup­port that the Ver­mont Sen­a­tor has gath­ered behind him.

The speak­ers and sup­port­ers in the room always returned to the same fac­tor when talk­ing about their sup­port for Sanders – his ide­o­log­i­cal con­sis­ten­cy over a fifty-year career in pol­i­tics. This fact impressed itself upon both old and young sup­port­ers, and it seemed clear that the Senator’s record of stick­ing to his guns is per­haps his most impor­tant strength among union mem­bers.

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