Sanders Picks Up New York Transit Union Support

     MANHATTAN (CN) – New York’s public transit union threw its weight behind Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders the day before he and rival Hillary Clinton square off in a televised debate in Brooklyn.
     Clinton long ago clinched most of the nation’s union support in her run for the White House, but on Wednesday the city’s subway drivers felt the Bern.
     “There is no doubt that America needs a jolt,” said John Samuelson, president of the Transport Workers Union Local 100, which represents 38,000 transit workers across the Empire State, including New York City’s subway and bus drivers. “In Bernie Sanders, we see a kindred spirit. Sanders has been fighting for American workers his entire life.”
     The senator from Vermont thanked the powerful union for its support and continued to drive home his message of fighting for the middle class and closing the economic gap.
     “At a time when our middle class is disappearing, when we are seeing almost all new income and wealth going to the top one percent, when we have the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of almost any major country on earth, John is right: it is too late for the same old, same old establishment politics,” Sanders said.
     Sanders touted his plan to spend $1 trillion to rebuild the public transit system in New York City, which he said he often rode while growing up in the Big Apple.
     He also backed unionizing as a way to close the gap between the rich and poor.
     “Millions of Americans who want to join unions are unable to do so because of the coercive and often illegal behavior of their employers,” Sanders said. “The benefits of joining a union are clear: higher wages, better benefits and a more secure retirement. If we are serious about reducing income and wealth inequality and rebuilding the middle class, we have got to substantially increase the number of union jobs in this country.”
     Sanders also landed a major endorsement Wednesday morning from Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, the first U.S. senator to choose him over Clinton. Merkley is also a superdelegate.
     “Bernie Sanders is boldly and fiercely addressing the biggest challenges facing our country,” Merkley wrote in an editorial Wednesday morning. “He has opposed trade deals with nations that pay their workers as little as a dollar an hour. Such deals have caused good jobs to move overseas and undermined the leverage of American workers to bargain for a fair share of the wealth they create in our remaining factories.”
     Also on Wednesday, Clinton’s camp touted the endorsement of the Local 3 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) for her “strong support” of New York’s working families.
     “Hillary Clinton is the only credible candidate in this race that has our interests at heart and while she stands with those struggling to hold on to our middle-class standards, she also brings hope to many working class Americans that have slipped behind,” said Christopher Erikson, business manager of the Local 3 IBEW. “She is the most qualified in the field, and will get results.”
     Clinton returned the compliments.
     “I am extremely proud to have the endorsement of Chris Erikson, the Local 3 IBEW, and so many of the hard-working men and women of the labor community,” Clinton said. “If we want to get serious about raising incomes, we have to get serious about supporting union workers. That’s why I believe it’s time we finally raise the minimum wage, join every other industrialized country in the world and support paid family leave, and expand investments in programs that will create more good paying jobs.
     “I will never stop fighting for the American worker,” she added.
     Clinton has already received the lion’s share of union support; her camp noted that she’s backed by more than 25 labor groups across the country.
     Clinton and Sanders will face off in an impromptu debate in Brooklyn on Thursday, which is being orchestrated by CNN and New York 1.
     Both candidates have been crisscrossing the city and Long Island in the days leading up the anticipated debate.
     Both also have offices in Brooklyn. Clinton, the former First Lady, once-New York Senator and ex-Secretary of State, has long had an office in Downtown Brooklyn.
     Sanders, who grew up in Brooklyn, recently set up camp in Greenpoint, a neighborhood in the north-western end of the city’s largest and most populous borough.
     A larger number of Republican candidates are in the race for the presidency, including billionaire and TV personality Donald Trump.

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