“We all know in this room that you don’t have a great and growing middle class unless you have a great and growing trade union movement,” Sanders said. “And it is no secret that there have been fierce attacks against the trade union movement for the last number of decades, and in fact, you could argue that it is the trade unions of today that are the last lines of defense against a vicious corporate agenda that is working hard to destroy the middle class.”
At times during the endorsement event, a few boisterous members of the union tried to start a chant: “Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, 2016 is Bernie time!” When he wrapped, Sanders was swarmed by supporters, including one who told him to “kick some a—“ in the April 19 New York primary.
“I believe we're gonna win here in New York City, and we're gonna win here in New York state,” Sanders said.
Leaving through a back door, Sanders headed to a Verizon protest on Flatbush Avenue. Surrounded by Secret Service agents and moving briskly from his motorcade to a speech site, Sanders was followed for three blocks by a man who kept shouting “I love you, Bernie!” Asked if he was “excited” to be there, Sanders turned the subject immediately to the workers’ grievance.
“This is about a company that wants to take health-care benefits away from its workers, but somehow they have enough money to pay $20 million a year,” Sanders said. “These workers are standing up against injustice, and I stand with them.”
A cheer went up as Sanders approached the protest. “We’ve got a champion who’s fighting for us,” said Christopher Shelton, CWA’s president. “Bernie Sanders!”
Addressing the strikers as “brothers and sisters,” Sanders again condemned Verizon for its chief executive's pay and reluctance to pay the benefits the union had asked for.
“This is just another major American corporation trying to destroy the lives of working Americans,” Sanders said. “Today you are standing up not just for Verizon workers; you’re standing up for millions of Americans who don’t have a union … on behalf of every worker in America, who is facing the same kind of pressure: Thank you. We’re gonna win this thing!”
Sanders left the stage, pausing briefly for photos, then working a makeshift ropeline — actually a metal gate — with more than his usual aplomb. A few minutes later, he was back in the motorcade, with no more public events planned until a Wednesday night rally in Washington Square.
Meanwhile, Sanders was declaring another kind of solidarity — with a trio of Democratic congressional candidates. They included Zephyr Teachout, an author, academic and surprisingly strong 2014 candidate for governor of New York who is now seeking a seat in the Hudson Valley.
"When we talk about a political revolution, we also need to have people in Congress who aren't beholden to special interests," Sanders wrote in his Teachout letter. "Zephyr literally wrote the book on political corruption. She understands better than anybody how special interests try to buy off politicians, and she's dedicated her life to fixing our broken political system."
Teachout, like Sanders, was in the midst of a solidarity rally with striking Verizon workers.