THE UNIVERSITY of California’s largest employee union, AFSCME Local 3299, has voted to endorse Senator Bernie Sanders’ bid for President ahead of California’s March 3rd Primary Election.
AFSCME Local 3299 represents 26,000 Service and Patient Care workers at the University of California, and is comprised mostly of women and black workers, who are the lowest paid in the UC system.
The announcement follows a consultation with Local 3299’s membership, in which Sanders received significantly more support than all the other candidates combined in a recent survey.
‘This election will be a referendum on a corrupt President who has actively worked to rip off workers, attack our families and undermine our collective bargaining rights,’ said AFSCME Local 3299 executive vice-president Michael Avant.
‘These are the biggest voting issues for our members. And while any of the major candidates challenging Trump would be a significant improvement, none have walked the walk as reliably and consistently as Senator Bernie Sanders, and that’s why we are enthusiastically endorsing him for President.’
During Local 3299’s three year struggle against outsourcing and wage inequality at UC, Sanders not only honoured a speaker’s boycott that led the DNC to relocate a planned debate at UCLA, he joined AFSCME 3299 members on the strike line in March 2019.
‘The public support of officials who share workers’ values was a major factor in our efforts to secure historic new contracts for our members,’ added AFSCME Local 3299’s Patient Care Unit Vice President Monica De Leon.
‘To close America’s widening income gap, fix its broken healthcare system and uplift our most vulnerable communities, that’s the kind of leadership we need in the White House.’
AFSCME Local 3299 is now the third University of California union to endorse Sanders for President, joining the California Nurses Association and UPTE-CWA Local 9119.
Bernie Sanders raised more money in 2019 from employees of the five largest tech companies – which also happen to be the five most valuable companies in the US – than any of his competitors in the Democratic primary field.
The Vermont senator and self-described democratic socialist received more than $1 million total in donations from employees of Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft, according to data from the Federal Election Commission.
Sanders is receiving much of his support from blue-collar employees, including Amazon warehouse staffers and Apple store salespeople.
And his lead is growing, with the gap over his nearest rival, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, widening in the fourth quarter.
Compared with the other candidates in the race, Sanders drew significantly more support from Amazon’s warehouse and fulfillment centre workers and drivers.
He also received hundreds of donations from the company’s software engineers.
His support from Apple was similarly divided between employees in the retail arm of the company and white-collar engineers and designers.
Sanders has repeatedly criticised Amazon for exploiting its blue-collar workforce, and in 2018 introduced a bill in the Senate, the Stop BEZOS bill – named after Amazon founder Jeff Bezos – which would have taxed the company in proportion to the number of employees who were receiving federal assistance such as food stamps.
Soon after, Amazon announced that it was raising its minimum wage across the company to $15, but the company remains a political target in the 2020 presidential race.
Some Amazon employees used their political giving as an opportunity to make a statement about their working conditions.
Ten Amazon employees in eight states identified their occupation as ‘slave’ or ‘slave labour.’
Federal Election Commission rules require employed persons to disclose their occupation and employer when making campaign contributions.
Seven of those employees donated to Sanders’ campaign.
A further analysis of all contributions to Democratic presidential campaigns in 2019 showed that Amazon led the nation in employees who reported their occupation as ‘slave.’
The next largest employer of people who described themselves as ‘slave’ was listed as ‘The Man’, followed by the retailers Walmart and Target.
‘Many, many unions throughout this country – including some in Unite Here, and the Culinary Union which is part of Unite Here – absolutely understand that we’ve got to move to Medicare for All,’ Sanders said last week.
‘And the reason is, if you talk to union negotiators, they will tell you they spend half of their time arguing against cutbacks for the healthcare that they have.
‘They’re losing wage increases because the cost of healthcare is soaring,’ Sanders continued.
‘When everybody in America has comprehensive healthcare, and when we join the rest of the industrialised world by guaranteeing healthcare to all people, unions can then negotiate for higher wages, better working conditions, better pensions. So I think the future for unions is through Medicare for All.’
Sal Rosselli, president of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, said: ‘Over the years members sacrificed wage and other economic increases to achieve employer paid healthcare for them and their families – now every contract cycle is a fight to maintain it.
‘Medicare for All would take healthcare off the bargaining table so improvements could be made to pensions, wages, training, child/elder care, and other economic issue.’
- Catering workers with United Airlines rallied last Friday at Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport to demand increased wages and improved benefits, including more affordable health care.
Dozens of catering workers gathered outside of the United departure terminal chanting and waving signs stating ‘one job should be enough’ — the slogan of Unite Here Local 5, which represents 120 Honolulu-based United catering workers.
Among them was Narlyn Isikar, who works in the equipment, sanitation and liquor department.
‘It’s a really hard job,’ Isikar said. ‘We’re fighting for better wages, better health insurance – and respect.’
Thousands of United catering workers throughout the country were unionised in 2018, but contract negotiations have been ongoing since March 2019.
The Honolulu-based workers joined others in labour demonstrations this week, including a group in Houston, Texas, that participated in pickets, as well as a 24-hour fast, in support of improved wages and benefits.
Isikar – who said she’s currently looking for a second job to supplement her income – explained that they hope Friday’s rally will increase public awareness of the issue.