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Ahead of New York Primary, Bernie Sanders Joins Verizon Picket Line

The Vermont senator is courting blue-collar and union workers.

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Looking to shore up support among organized labor ahead of next Tuesday’s New York primary, Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders joined union workers demonstrating outside Verizon’s Manhattan offices on Wednesday.

Nearly 40,000 cable and landline phone workers walked off the job to protest stalled contract talks. The strike, organized by the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), is one of the largest in the U.S. in recent memory.

Sen. Sanders has aligned himself closely with working-class voters, criticizing the greed of Wall Street and big corporations like Verizon. He’s courting the organized labor vote ahead of New York’s Democratic primary on Tuesday, and perhaps it’s working: He secured the endorsement of the 42,000-member Transit Workers Union (TWU) on Wednesday morning.

The gesture certainly attracted notice around New York City.

The Clinton campaign was quick to issue a statement, condemning the stalled labor talks and calling on Verizon to return to the negotiating table.

“I am disappointed to learn that negotiations have broken down between Verizon and their workers, represented by the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers,” Clinton said in a statement. “Verizon should come back to the bargaining table with a fair offer for their workers. To preserve and grow America’s middle class, we need to protect good wages and benefits, including retirement security. And we should be doing all we can to keep good-paying jobs with real job security in New York. “

Sanders singled out Verizon in a speech earlier this week at the University of Buffalo, saying that “over the years, Verizon has made billions of dollars in profit, but in a given year has not paid a nickel in taxes.”

Verizon, for its part, turned to Twitter to call on Sanders to “get his facts straight.” The company said it has paid about $15.6 billion in taxes over the last two years, and CEO Lowell McAdam penned a LinkedIn post in which he said that Senator Sanders’s “uninformed views are, in a word, contemptible.”

“Sen. Sanders also claims that Verizon doesn’t use its profits to benefit America. Again, a look at the facts says otherwise,” McAdam wrote. “In the last two years, Verizon has invested some $35 billion in infrastructure — virtually all of it in the U.S. — and paid out more than $16 billion in dividends to the millions of average Americans who invest in our stock.”

According to the left-leaning advocacy group Citizens for Tax Justice, Verizon paid no federal income tax between 2008 and 2013, and received $77 billion in tax breaks over the same period.

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