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.
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.
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.
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.
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.