Bernie Sanders’ first appearance in California as a 2020 presidential candidate was not at a mega-rally like the ones that defined his previous bid, but at a speech before sun-baked picketers in front of UCLA’s medical center.
The rallies will come later — Sanders has three scheduled this weekend in the state — but the show of solidarity with striking UC workers illustrated how the Vermont senator is seeking to align himself with organized labor, a bedrock of Democratic politics.
“I’m here today not as a candidate for president but as somebody who has spent the last 40 years of his life walking the picket lines for unionized workers,” said Sanders, sporting rolled shirtsleeves. He wore a baseball cap that partially obscured a bandage covering stitches he received last week after cutting his head on a shower door.
The picket line consisted of members of the University Professional and Technical Employees, an affiliate of the Communications Workers of America, which represents research and technical workers. The union has been in negotiations with UC for nearly two years, but sticking points have included wages and concerns over outsourcing. The strikers were joined Wednesday by members of another union, AFSCME Local 3299, which represents patient care workers and is also in contract negotiations with the university system.
Sanders blasted the University of California for acting like a “corporate-type employer,” and framed the workers’ demands as part of a larger labor struggle.
“What we are seeing all across this country is a war being waged against working people in America,” he said.
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