"We can take on the billionaires": Sanders joins striking Starbucks workers on Boston picket line

"What you are doing is what people all over this country are beginning to do," Sanders said

Published August 24, 2022 4:00AM (EDT)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

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U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday joined striking Starbucks workers in Boston to express solidarity with them and other employees of the coffee chain who have so far organized over 200 U.S. locations in less than a year.

"What you are doing is what people all over this country are beginning to do," the Vermont Independent said through a megaphone.

"You at Starbucks all across this country are inspiring working people who are sick and tired of getting screwed over and who want decent wages, decent working conditions, and they want not to be treated as cogs in a machine," he continued. "You know, guess what? You're human beings."

"And the only way we're gonna be successful is when we build a mass grassroots movement and at the center of that movement is a strong trade union movement," he added. "That's what you guys are doing. So thank you very much for what you're doing."

The Boston Globe last week reported from 874 Commonwealth Avenue on the longest strike in Starbucks history:

The Starbucks workers, who voted to unionize in June, say they're fighting for a fairer workplace and the termination of their interim store manager, Tomi Chorlian. In just a month on the job, workers say, she engaged in union-busting efforts and discriminated against LGBTQ and minority employees.

A Starbucks representative directed the Globe to a July 23 statement, where company said it "respect the rights of workers to participate in a legally protected strike." (Chorlian did not respond to requests for comment.)

Sanders was in Boston on Sunday for a rally—titled "The Working Class: Fighting Back Against Corporate Greed"—with two union leaders: Sean O'Brien of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and Sara Nelson of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO.

Nelson, who joined the senator at the Starbucks location, led a chant: "Hey hey, ho ho, corporate greed has got to go."

The trio delivered similar messages at their Boston rally, where O'Brien referred to CEOs of major corporations as "white collar criminals" and called out politicians who refuse to support working people. The Teamsters leader also celebrated the nation's current unionization wave.

"We need people to engage. We need people to be involved," O'Brien also stressed. "Being a union member, being a leader, being a worker, trying to organize, is not a spectator sport. You can't sit on the sidelines and hope and pray someone scores that touchdown for you. You've got to engage. Get in the fight. "

As Sanders put it in a tweet thanking the 1,500 rally attendees: "Together, we can take on the billionaires and win."

The events in Boston followed a rally in Philadelphia on Saturday that also featured remarks from Nelson, O'Brien, and Sanders.

"This is the richest country in the history of the world. It is not acceptable to me, to Sean, to Sara, or to you, that working people are falling further and further behind while the billionaires get richer," Sanders told the cheering crowd in Philly.

The Philadelphia Inquirer noted that Sanders "wore a baseball cap of the area's Teamsters Local 107 for shade during the hot afternoon."

"We are in the fight of our lifetimes," Sanders reportedly said. "We are fighting incredible wealth and incredible power. We're going to create an economy that works for us, and not just the 1%."

"You are not just a cog in a machine. You're a human being with some rights," he told the crowd. "If we are going to save the middle class in this country, we are going to have to grow the union movement."

After the event in Philly, Sanders tweeted: "Let me thank the more than 1,000 people who joined us today to stand together in the fight against corporate greed. In solidarity, we can build an economy that works for all of us, not just billionaires and corporations."

Meanwhile, on the opposite side of Pennsylvania, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) on Saturday also highlighted the resurgent U.S. labor movement during a speech at the Netroots Nation convention in Pittsburgh.

"Across the country young people are reviving the labor movement," she said, pointing to union drives by AmazonGoogleStarbucks, and Trader Joe's workers. "We have taken on some of the biggest, wealthiest multinational corporations in the world—and we are winning."

By Jessica Corbett

Jessica Corbett is a staff writer for Common Dreams. Follow her on Twitter: @corbett_jessica.

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