Members of UE Locals 203, 208, 255 and 267, along with trade unionists from throughout Vermont, were honored by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders at a "Worker Appreciation Dinner and Dance" on Sunday, July 29. Sanders held the event to celebrate the role that Vermont's labor unions play in winning justice for working people.
Northeast Region President Elizabeth Jesdale addressed the gathering, urging rank and file trade unionists in Vermont "to join together in solidarity to improve not only the conditions of those of us fortunate enough to have a union, but also to assist our fellow members of the working class currently being oppressed right here in Vermont, right here in the United States, and those across borders as well.
"We, as members of the working class will not get equality and justice from one on one meetings with the bosses or behind closed doors," continued Jesdale. "It is up to us, the working class, the rank and file, the grassroots, to join together and fight back starting on the shop floors, in the streets."
"When actions are run from the ground up, from local to regional then national leadership it creates a world of solidarity, a world of unity, a world of equality, a world of justice. This is the world I want to live in."
Senator Sanders opened his remarks by reflecting on his working-class childhood. "As some of you know, I grew up in a family that did not have a lot of money, and I have never forgotten what it is about when families struggle every day. [That experience] has shaped who I am as a human being and my political life."
Sanders, one of the few politicians who understands the core values of the trade union movement, continued, "One worker alone can beg for a wage, can beg for decent working conditions, can beg for some retirement benefit, but when people stand together they don't have to beg."
He spoke about the importance of the trade union movement in winning programs and policies that working people rely on: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, workers' safety protections, overtime pay. These programs and policies "did not come down from the heavens," Sanders said. "As often as not they came from the trade union movement."
Sanders continued by laying out his program, which closely reflects UE policy: a $15 minimum wage, Medicare-for-All, single-payer healthcare, universal and affordable education and childcare, and massive investment in infrastructure to create good jobs. "If we invest in rebuilding our roads, our bridges, our rail system, our water systems, our wastewater plants," said Sanders, "we not only make this country more productive and safer, we create up to 15 million good-paying, union jobs."
Finally, Sanders concluded, "We will not have a decent standard of living for our people and the political strength that we need unless we build and grow the trade union movement in this country."
The UE members were joined by Victor Manuel Salas Montenegro, a trade unionist from the Mexican FAT, UE's close ally.
More photos from the event are available on UE's Facebook page.