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Sara Nelson, Bernie Sanders, and Sean O'Brien
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders was joined at the podium during his speech at Independence Mall by national union leaders Sara Nelson and Sean O'Brien. Photo: Nigel Thompson/AL DÍA News.

Bernie Sanders comes to Philly to boost nationwide union efforts amid Starbucks and Amazon wins

The U.S. Senator from spoke to union leaders, members and supporters on Independence Mall.

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“It should’ve been you!” someone in the crowd of hundreds shouted as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders took the podium on Saturday, Aug. 20, for a union rally with national intentions on Philadelphia’s Independence Mall.

“Well it is me. I’m here with you,” Sanders replied, receiving a resounding roar of applause from the crowd.

Donning a Teamsters hat and alongside national labor leaders Sean O’Brien and Sara Nelson, Sanders hit all the points that have become hallmarks of his speeches ever since he first ran for president in 2016 — free healthcare, raising the minimum wage, and fighting corporate greed. 

All are things, he said, that unions help achieve or combat.

“When you are a member of a union, you get better wages, better working conditions, you understand the concept of a pension,” said Sanders. “You’re not just a cog in a machine. You’re a human being who has some rights.”

Sanders and fellow speaker Sean O’Brien, the national president of the Teamsters, also spoke about the importance of strong unions to having a strong middle class for the country. 

For O’Brien, it meant keeping his family afloat while they raised him and his siblings in Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood. Sanders echoed that story on a national level in his speech.

“If we’re gonna save the middle class of this country, we’re gonna grow the trade union movement,” he said.

That’s amid a time where many middle and working class families are still financially and mentally recovering from a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. Sanders decried the profits won by corporations over the last two and a half years and the wealth that only got bigger as COVID-19 shut the world down.

“That is a moral outrage,” he told the crowd.

Still, in the face of those struggles, Sanders offered an empowering and hopeful message about the future of the national labor fight.

Recent unionization wins at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island and a growing number of wins at Starbucks branches across the country are signs that the Vermont Senator may be onto something with his optimism. Philadelphia is now home to five unionized Starbucks as a result of the wave.

“The time is now to take on the oligarchy that is running this country,” he said, referring to Corporate America, which took equal amounts of hits from fellow speakers O’Brien and Nelson.

What they all had in common beyond the bashes was a will to continue to fight, successful or not.

“We are united today in taking on greed. We are united in making fundamental changes in our national priorities,” said Sanders.

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