The broad field of Democratic presidential candidates encourages employees on strike at Stop & Shop, drawing attention to a walkout that otherwise might not make national news.
But the parade of poles on the picket lines in Massachusetts also highlights the central role that the issue of economic security will play in the upcoming presidential campaign.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, whose campaign schedule seems to be running faster than the rest of the pack, was the first to move, bringing donuts to striking workers in front of a Somerville store last Friday. This was followed by the much-publicized appearance of former Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday at a large rally at the South Bay Center's Stop & Shop in Dorchester. On Friday, Amy Klobuchar, Senator from Minnesota, made her appearance at the Somerville store, while Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend, Ind., A joined the strikers in front of the Malden Stop & Shop.
"I run for president, largely because I believe that our freedom depends on how to ensure that changes in our society benefit workers," Buttigieg said. "What's happening at Stop & Shop is an example of the exact opposite."
These visits were a blessing for United Food & Commercial workers, who represent more than 30,000 workers in 240 New England stores that left work on April 11.
But this also raises a key question: can a Democratic candidate galvanize not only the unions and other struggling workers, but also the warriors and centrists of social justice – while maintaining a sufficient number of Republicans and independents to the cause?
That's at least what I was wondering about as I watched the crowd in the cold, wet South Bay Center parking lot on Thursday, waiting for Biden to speak. The participation of the other unions was strong: the Unite Here section 26, the International Union of Painters and Allied Crafts, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the Massachusetts Nurses Association, and Teamsters Local 25 are among those present.
There has been much talk of greedy corporations more concerned about profits and share buybacks than their employees. Many of us against them, perverse billionaires against workers who work on salt from the land. The crowd was diverse. The banner on the podium said: "A job should be enough".
This recalled that many unions have long fought for the underdogs. Their members are trusted Democratic supporters, but Hillary Clinton won only 8 percentage points of the union vote – the smallest margin for a Democrat since Ronald Reagan defeated Walter Mondale in 1984.
It is also a reminder, in all the thunder on the Mueller report and the calls by some Democrats to dismiss Trump, that the stakes of the strike are at the heart of the concerns of voters: living wage, affordable health care, security of retirement.
That did not help his campaign that Clinton is considered to be comfortable with the Wall Street elite. And Donald Trump has entered the world of work, especially with white factory workers from Pennsylvania and the Midwest, with his tough stance on world trade.
But something more important is happening here too. Despite a decent economy and a rising stock market, many workers are under pressure.
There are not only cashiers and meat cutters, they are blue-collar workers and white-collar workers whose livelihoods are threatened by global competition, automation and the growing hardship of those who are stuck in the world. bad side of the country's growing income divide. Most members of the union.
A confrontation to come – and I'm not talking about the one between Republicans and Democrats in 2020. It's a struggle to know who will lead the Democrats.
Biden's heart is in the right place, but his timing is wrong. He is too centrist – and too old school. He had trouble holding the crowd for 10 minutes.
Bernie Sanders would have had the place rocker. But is he eligible? Will he, Liz Warren or any other candidate who runs to the far left – Medicare for All, the dissolution of ICE, free classes at the university – can carry the center? Can a moderate like Klobuchar or former Colorado governor, John Hickenlooper, inspire the Green New Dealers?
There is something that clarifies a picket line in front of your favorite supermarket. You have to decide if you will go past the people you see regularly, maybe even know. Your choice will be influenced in part by the fact that you think the economy works for everyone or only for the haves.
So watch out for the politicians who come along with the UFCW. This can help you choose from the outstanding crop of candidates requesting your vote.