Photo from Bernie Sanders in a march with striking McDonald’s workers in Cedar Rapids three weeks ago.
In a show of solidarity with labor, Bernie Sanders’ Iowa campaign used their extensive email list to help rally union members in Southeast Iowa for a march this weekend.
The campaign sent around emails encouraging Iowans to show up to the “No to NAFTA 2.0” rally in Keokuk on Sunday.
Abshir Omar, Sander’s Iowa Political Coordinator, said union members gathered for a march to protest President Donald Trump’s proposed changes to NAFTA. He said several unions showed up to the march, including the AFL-CIO and the painters and allied trades union.
Omar called NAFTA 2.0 “NAFTA on steroids,” and said, “It’s going to harm farmers. It’s going to harm the industry.”
The email called NAFTA “a disastrous trade agreement which opened the floodgates for multinational corporations to outsource American jobs.”
“Now, Trump is proposing a ‘NAFTA 2.0,’ which is just as bad,” the email read. “His version would send more jobs overseas all while doling out more giveaways to the pharmaceutical and fossil fuel industries.”
Sanders himself led a march with striking fast food workers and union supporters in Cedar Rapids earlier this month. The workers there were demanding $15 an hour.
“Union rights are a very, very big part of what we’re doing in this campaign,” Omar said. “You cannot do workers rights and workers justice from the top down. You have to have a grassroots movement.”
He said the campaign is fighting for basic workers rights, safe working conditions and living wages.
“Once Sanders is elected, he’s going to do a lot of great work to sign off on those issues and pass them into law, but he’s going to need co-governance from the people,” Omar said.
In Iowa, only about 10 to 11 percent of people belong to unions, which Omar said is “abysmal.”
“It shows what legislators and ‘right-to-work’ policies have been changing over the last couple of decades,” Omar said. “We’ve definitely been signal boosting for unions whenever they need support and we reach out to help them in any way we can.”
Sanders campaign staff unionized themselves earlier this year, becoming one of the first presidential campaigns to do so.
“We love Bernie and he is the best candidate on union rights, but … If we’re asking every American to join a union, we have to do it first,” Omar said.
While Omar said the trip to Keokuk was about uniting union workers, it was also about showing unity with other campaigns.
Omar marched with Elizabeth Warren’s rural Iowa Coordinator, John Russell.
— John Russell aka Roaddogg (@heyjohnrussell) June 23, 2019
The two can be seen in a video posted to Twitter chanting “Vote Labor.”
A campaign staffer for the Eric Swalwell campaign also spoke at the event in Keokuk.
by Paige Godden
Photo by Julie Fleming