U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand pledged to support organized labor Monday during an intimate roundtable discussion in Las Vegas, the latest stop in her campaign for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president.
“I think the ability of a worker to be able to unionize, to be able to organize, to have (collective) bargaining is the greatest economic engine that exists,” she told a room of workers at SEIU Local 1107.
The senator from New York is part of a long list of Democratic candidates seeking to secure the party’s nomination.
For about 20 minutes, Gillibrand took questions about the minimum wage, institutional racism and the path toward universal health care, hitting all the progressive high notes along the way.
“I’m running for president because I want to reward work in this country,” Gillibrand said. “I want to make sure your voices are heard loud and clear.”
After the roundtable, Gillibrand told reporters she “vehemently” opposes legislation in the Senate that would expedite the development of Yucca Mountain.
Gillibrand said she wants to make it easier for workers to unionize and collectively bargain, and that she is committed to opposing right-to-work legislation.
She said she supports eliminating the lower-than-minimum tipped wage, as well as raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and indexing it to inflation.
Blanca Gomez, a home-care worker, asked Gillibrand what she would do to combat structural racism in the United States.
“It has to be addressed across every landscape,” Gillibrand said, adding that she supports legislation that would establish a commission to study reparations.
Gillibrand wants to legalize marijuana use and possession nationwide and eliminate cash bail, she said.
She also voiced support for enhancing access to higher education by offering free college to those who are willing to do public service, including in heath care, education and green jobs, and working as first responders.
Gillibrand supports “Medicare for All” and a single-payer approach to health care.
She said she would start by letting anyone buy in to a Medicare for All plan at a price they can afford and create competition with private-sector insurance companies.
Gillibrand said she would not be surprised if such a plan could attract some 90 percent of Americans to choose that option within four or five years, putting a single-payer option within reach.
“I would make Medicare just like Social Security, where everyone buys in across their lifetime, whether they’re working full time or part time, big companies or small companies, always being matched,” she said.