Bernie Sanders wowed the audience at at a labor union conference Tuesday, calling them “brothers and sisters” and vowing to push an agenda they’ll like.
“A strong middle class is synonymous with a strong trade union movement,” the Vermont U.S. senator told the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers Business Agents conference at a Washington hotel.
The Democratic presidential candidate vowed a “political revolution” that says to billionaires “you can’t have it all.” He pledged to push a “major federal jobs program that puts millions of people back to work.” He’d have the government invest $1 trillion over five years to modernize the nation’s infrastructure.
The audience loved it all, giving him standing ovations and lengthy cheers. Before Sanders spoke, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, appeared in a brief video and said she, too was a big supporter of the union, which has 216,000 members in the United States and Canada.
“Your success is our country’s success. We need an economy built by every American for every American. You’re doing your part,” Clinton said..
She spoke about the value of union apprenticeships, calling SMART’s program a model for the country. Clinton said she’s back a tax credit to “encourage businesses to hire apprentices because when employers invest on on the job training workers are more productive,.”
After the speeches, Joseph Sellers, union general president, said Sanders was “fantastic.” He also had kind words for Clinton, saying she too has a history of support.
Any endorsement, Sellers said, “will take some time.”
The AFL-CIO executive council is meeting Wednesday and Thursday in Silver Spring, Maryland, and reports have said it could delay endorsing a candidate. There’s some feeling among union members that Clinton needs to take a harder line against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free trade pact pushed by President Barack Obama. Unions worry it will mean fewer and lower paying American jobs.
Sanders is a vocal opponent. Clinton has said it needs protection for workers and stronger assurances companies cannot skirt health and environmental rules. She backed the proposed agreement as Secretary of State.