In a fiery speech with labor leaders in Boston on Sunday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) rebuked corporate and wealthy “vultures” that are wielding undue influence in the U.S. while calling for a wide variety of policies to protect the public, including universal health care and rent control.
Sanders spoke at a rally to support the labor movement attended by over 1,500 people, taking the stage after Teamsters President Sean O’Brien and Association of Flight Attendants-Communications Workers of America President Sara Nelson. The senator highlighted vast wealth disparities in the U.S. and pointed out that conditions for workers and the public are eroding.
Over half of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and over half a million people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness, he said — partially because workers have taken pay cuts over the years despite productivity rising steadily for decades.
“We have the moral responsibility to be outraged when three people own more wealth than half of American society, when the top 1 percent are earning 45 percent of all incomes, when corporate CEOs are now making 350 times what their workers are making,” Sanders said. “That is not the America we accept. We’re going to change it, big time.”
He castigated billionaires for their undue influence over the U.S. “These vultures are putting — I’m going to control my vocabulary here a little bit — these vultures are putting billions of dollars into campaigns to elect people who will pony to them and to defeat candidates who stand for working families,” he said.
Meanwhile, corporate media and wealthy politicians distract from problems that the American public is facing, like a lack of universal health care, adequate support for child care, affordable higher education and affordable housing, Sanders said. He then spoke about meeting with Boston residents who said that renting a small apartment in the city could cost $3,000 a month, criticizing the costs as outrageous.
“Don’t tell me we cannot build affordable and low-income housing, don’t tell me we can’t have rent control,” Sanders said, to cheers from the crowd.
Later, he pinned problems of major inequality on the corporate “oligarchy” that plagues the country. “The corporate elite are addicted to greed,” he said, adding that their greed and ability to buy favor from politicians is “sick.”
Sanders emphasized that joining a union is one of the best ways for workers to fight against such unprecedented consolidation of wealth and take back power from executives and wealthy employers. The labor union movement is seeing a “rebirth from coast to coast,” he said, but lawmakers need to make it easier for workers to form unions, as workers face “enormous opposition” from corporate employers.
Indeed, before the rally, Sanders joined Starbucks workers from a Boston-area location who have been striking for over a month, protesting the company’s union busting and other employee concerns like regular understaffing. Members of the community have come out to support the strike and help keep the picket line alive for the workers who voted to unionize earlier this summer.
The senator told the workers that they are standing up not only for themselves, but for workers across the country who are facing abuses from powerful employers.
Sanders concluded his speech with a rousing call for people to stand together against corporate power. “The billionaires have the money, we have the people,” Sanders said. “Our job now, for the sake of our children and future generations, is to stand together and to proclaim loudly and clearly, as Woody Guthrie did a long time ago: ‘This land is our land.’”
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