MANCHESTER — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was warmly received Monday at the New Hampshire AFL-CIO Labor Day breakfast, firing up state and local labor leaders with talk of the nation’s economy.
While jobs have been restored over the past few years during the recovery from the recession, Sanders said many of those jobs are low-paying and part-time.
“Our job is to rebuild that middle class,” Sanders said. “Working families deserve a piece of the action.”
Sanders, an independent, was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 after serving 16 years in the House.
He said the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling that the government could not restrict corporations from spending money to support candidates has allowed the extremely wealthy to have too much influence on the political process.
“The billionaires see you as their strongest opposition,” he said. “They want to be able to give somebody a check directly. ‘Here’s $50 million. Here’s your script. This is what you say.’”
Sanders also repeated his support for increasing the national minimum wage.
“I believe when we stand together, we win because there are a hell of a lot more of us than there are of them,” Sanders said toward the end of his speech at St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Manchester.
Sanders had to pause several times because of cheers and a standing ovation.
His travel schedule also included a trip last week to Iowa. After the Iowa caucuses, New Hampshire hosts the first-in-the nation presidential primary. Voters in both states are already being courted.
“It’s no secret,” Sanders said before heading to another Labor Day event. “I’m giving it some thought and exploring the possibility of running for President (in 2016) and obviously New Hampshire plays a huge role.”
Sanders was welcomed by some of the state’s top Democrats. Gov. Maggie Hassan, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Congresswomen Anne Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter also attended the event and spoke to the crowd.
Shaheen joked that Sanders’ speech was a difficult act to follow. She pointed to the changes in society attributed to the organized labor movement, which began more than 100 years ago.
“There have been too many efforts now to weaken collective bargaining, to weaken the right of workers to organize,” Shaheen said. “I will always stand with workers and I will fight for collective bargaining and the right to organize.”