By Shelby Mullis
INDIANAPOLIS — Rain could not stop thousands of Hoosiers from kicking off their week with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, on Monument Circle.
The former presidential candidate launched his multi-state “Pickup Tour” in Indianapolis Monday afternoon with a focus on jobs and the economy. Sanders is hosting the tour in conjunction with Good Jobs Nation, an advocate for higher wages and better opportunities for federal contract workers, and Chuck Jones, former president of the United Steelworkers Local 1999.
Sanders addresses spectators at the steps of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument. The Vermont senator visited Indianapolis Monday to discuss labor goals for the nation. Photo by Erica Irish, TheStatehouseFile.com
“What we are doing here in Indianapolis is what must happen in every state in this country,” Sanders said. “That is people standing together and demanding an economy and a government that represents all of us and not the one percent.”
The economy was a major focus for Sanders in his 2016 presidential campaign.
In a rally on the Statehouse lawn last year, Sanders joined members of the United Steelworkers Local 1999 and Jones to rally against Indiana-based Carrier Corporation’s decision to shift jobs overseas. Jones, who represented Carrier workers who lost their jobs in the company’s shift to Mexico, played a major role in calling out “corporate greed” at companies like Carrier.
Throughout his presidential campaign, Sanders also touted a goal to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour.
“What Good Jobs Nation has reminded us is you can’t survive on a $7 minimum wage,” Sanders said. “You can’t make it on nine bucks an hour or 12 bucks an hour. In America, if you work 40 hours a week, you should not be living in poverty. We need a minimum wage which is a livable wage — 15 bucks an hour.”
Another topic that gained a lot of traction Monday was Sanders’ proposal for free tuition for public colleges and universities across the country.
Nia Williams, a 17-year-old college student at Indiana University-Purdue University of Indianapolis, sported a Sanders shirt at Monday’s rally.
Williams’ mother attended the University of Chicago where Sanders fought to desegregate all boarding houses. Williams said Sanders remains close to her heart.
Former Carrier labor union president Chuck Jones addresses recent criticism from president Donald Trump and the struggles of the American worker. Jones appeared alongside Vermont senator Bernie Sanders at the Monday Good Jobs Nation rally. Photo by Erica Irish, TheStatehouseFile.com
“I’m a college student in a lot of debt right now,” Williams said. “He wants free college for all. He’s not swayed by money and stuff. He’s just really inspiring.”
During the event, Sanders also brought attention to the “shameful, ugly, un-American” events in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend where one woman died when one of the white supremacist demonstrators plowed a vehicle in a group of counter-protestors. Also, two Virginia state troopers monitoring the event died when their helicopter crashed.
“I’m thinking about the 400,000 men and women who gave their lives fighting Nazism and fighting fascism,” Sanders said. “I am thinking and I know I reflect the views of the vast majority of American people, whether they are Republican, Democrat or Independent, that what an embarrassment it is that we have a president who could not condemn in unequivocal terms, the racism and the Nazism and the white supremacy we saw marching in Charlottesville.”
Amy King, a 46-year-old Indianapolis mother, brought two of her children to Sanders’ rally on Monday to shine a light on peace and liberty in the state.
“I’m a supporter of equality, and I believe in the true American dream,” King said. “We were beginning to reach that dream.”
King and her children attend rallies across the state. She said she makes it a priority for her children to understand what peace and liberty look like.
They also marched in the Women’s March on Washington in January, just one day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
“Liberty for all was the dream, even if they didn’t understand who all should be getting it when they made it,” King said. “It’s the dream we’re heading toward and we should continue.”
Monday marked Sanders’ second appearance on Monument Circle since last May. He also visited the Indiana Statehouse and Indiana University in Bloomington during the 2016 campaign season. Sanders will make appearances at similar events in Ohio and Michigan later this week.
Shelby Mullis is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.