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Bernie Crusades Across Southern California

But gives House candidates cold shoulder

By Evan Gahr

Bernie Sanders rallied with California leaders of Black Lives Matter leaders to spotlight mass incarceration. (US Congress)

Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) trekked all over Southern California yesterday, hyping his trademark issues but scrupulously avoiding endorsing any of the beleaguered Democratic candidates in Tuesday’s primaries.

The silence was curious.

With his star power, Sanders could have ginned up the campaigns of Democratic congressional candidates who are facing the prospect of being shut out of the November ballot if they don’t get enough votes in the “top two” primary contests.  That in turn would kill the party’s chances of regaining control of the House.

But instead of wading into local races, Sanders talked up a storm—supporting higher wages, excoriating “corporate greed” praising workers’ fight for “justice” and bemoaning the “ghetto jails” of an allegedly racist criminal justice system.

His jaunt kicked off in Anaheim, home of Disneyland, where the Vermont senator held a roundtable discussion with Disney workers and other local wage earners. Anaheim-area unions are pushing a living wage ballot measure of $15 per hour, which would then increase one dollar per year for the next three years.  Unions claim the measure is badly needed because 10% of Disneyland workers have been homeless over the last two years.

Local businesses oppose the measure as a job killer that would retard future business development. They say Bernie is just on an ego trip, rudely sticking his nose into community matters.

When Sanders last month announced plans for his visit that, Todd Ament, head of a coalition of businesses opposing the initiative, scoffed that, “It’s hard to see how a former Presidential candidate and U.S. Senator from Vermont contributes to [debate over the ballot measure], rather than just grandstanding on a local issue for his own purposes.”

But at the Anaheim round table discussion yesterday, workers sounded very happy to have Sanders bring his star power to the debate over the ballot measure.

“We are talking about a company that has received huge tax breaks from the taxpayers here in Anaheim, but in addition to that, received over $1 billion in tax breaks from Trump’s tax giveaway to the wealthy,” Sanders exhorted participants. “The time is now to have an economy that works for everyone, not just a handful of billionaires.”

He added that the higher wages the ballot measure would ensure is an economic necessity for Disney workers. “Disney has got to understand that its employees are not teenagers; that the vast majority of employees here are workers, many with families.”

Although business leader Todd Ament had trashed Sanders as some kind of carpetbagger, local workers sounded very happy that the Vermont senator brought his big name to the debate.

As Disneyland waitress Jasmine Vaneman told the Orange County Register, Sanders’ “big voice” put Disney on notice that “the world has its eyes on you.”

Disneyland responded to the Sanders rally with a robotic statement: “We are proud of our commitment to our cast, and the fact that more people choose to work at Disneyland Resort than anywhere else in Orange County. While Mr. Sanders continues to criticize Disney to keep himself in the headlines, we continue to support our cast members through investments in wages and education.”

At a similarly high-pitched rally in Carson, California, Sanders noted that he was pushing legislation that would prevent businesses from classifying workers as independent contractors so they could instead be official employees, with the attendant better wages and benefits.

This is a particularly big issue for truckers, who were at the rally.

Sanders told them,  “Your struggle is the struggle of every worker in America. When we come together, nobody is going to stop us in the fight for justice.”

Afterwards Sanders hot-footed it to Los Angeles for a rally with Black Lives Matter activists. There, he lambasted felon disenfranchisement and threw lots of red meat to the crowd, claiming the criminal justice system disproportionately jails, blacks, Latinos and American Indians.

“Some of us remember reading in Charles Dickens’ books about ghetto prisons, you remember that?” Sanders asked. “Ghetto prisons, oh that was terrible in the 1800s in England. Well, I got news for you, we got ghetto prisons in the United States.”

Dems on June 5th arguably need Sanders’ help just as much as workers and prisoners of color do on his favorite issues.

It’s too bad Bernie didn’t remember that Saturday instead of making things, one way or another. all about him.

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