As he tells it, Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker has support for the middle class in his blood.
His grandfather was a union worker on a Ford Motor Co. assembly line in Detroit. His mother manned a booth for the Urban League at the National Mall when Martin Luther King Jr. addressed economic inequality during his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963.
And on Monday, the New Jersey senator underscored his support for organized labor and workers’ rights during a campaign stop at Craig Ranch Regional Park in North Las Vegas.
“I am here because of the union traditions that took my family from poverty into the middle class,” Booker told about 200 people seated under a large picnic pavilion. “We cannot allow our nation to turn its back on that tradition, because unions are under attack in America.”
The senator’s appearance was part of U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford’s inaugural Labor Day cookout. As his audience ate hamburgers and hot dogs, Booker opened with a joke about his mother’s cornbread stuffing that “could kill you with love.”
Then he pivoted into a rapid-fire, five-minute speech supporting universal health care, paid family leave, increased Social Security benefits and a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage.
“This presidential election, we must make sure the issues of working Americans are at the top,” he said.
It was Booker’s seventh stop in Nevada since he entered the presidential race in February, and gaining the support of union workers in the early caucus state has been a consistent focus of his and other candidates in the crowded Democratic presidential field. Last month he spoke at the Nevada AFL-CIO’s annual convention and took part in a candidate forum hosted by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees at UNLV.
And Booker was far from the only Democratic candidate represented at Monday’s cookout. Clipboard-wielding volunteers from various campaigns could be seen weaving through the crowd, asking residents to pitch their support for candidates including Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
Lloyd Bell, a U.S. Postal Service employee and National Association of Letter Carriers union member for nearly 30 years, said he was glad to see the candidates had made workers’ rights issues central to their campaigns. He hasn’t decided yet who to support, but he knows the candidate needs to back organized labor.
“It’s been good to me,” he said of his union. “It’s all about working families. Being able to take care of your family, being able to support your family.”