Bernie Sanders Says It Is ‘Nauseating’ to See Corporations Praise Frontline Workers as ‘Heroes’ While Refusing to Pay Them More

By Jake Johnson, staff writer at Common Dreams. Originally published at Common Dreams

Jerrri-Lynn here. I too share the disappointment many members of the commentariat have expressed over the collapse of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.  But leaving that aside, that doesn’t mean I cease to support him when he speaks out and draws attention  to issues such as the failure of large corporations to pay their workers a living wage – especially while hypocritically lauding them as heroes.

During a virtual town hall late Thursday with public health professionals and labor leaders, Sen. Bernie Sanders ripped big companies for spending money on advertisements hailing frontline workers as “heroes and heroines” while refusing to pay these essential employees higher wages as they perform their jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“I personally get really sick and tired of turning on the TV and seeing these companies run these ads, ‘Thank you heroes and heroines, but of course we’re not going to pay you any more money,'” said the Vermont senator. “That is just, to my mind, nauseating.”


A number of major and notoriously abusive corporations—including Amazon, Walmart, and Uber—have run television spots and YouTube ads in recent weeks praising their employees while simultaneously continuing to pay low wages and failing to provide adequate safety equipment.

On March 27, Amazon—headed by world’s richest man Jeff Bezos—posted a video celebrating the company’s “retail heroes” and vowing to do “everything we can” to ensure their health and safety. Three days later, workers at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island walked off the job to protest the company’s refusal to implement adequate workplace safety measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“Amazon’s actions do not match their statements that they are prioritizing our health or the health of the public,” one Amazon employee said at the time.

Last week, as Common Dreams reported, Amazon announced it is planning to end a $2-an-hour hazard pay increase for warehouse employees on May 31, even as the company’s CEO sees his wealth skyrocket. According to an analysis released Thursday by Americans for Tax Fairness and the Instute for Policy Studies, Bezos’ fortune grew by nearly $35 billion between March 18 and May 19. Amazon is not alone in ending small pay increases even as the coronavirus crisis continues.

As Vox reported:

Kroger’s “hero bonus” raises ended on May 16, even as coronavirus cases continued to rise across the country. The grocer isn’t alone—other companies that instituted some form of additional pay for workers earlier this year in recognition of their position on the front lines are now rolling back those increases, even though the danger is far from gone. Starbucks, for example, is planning to end a $3-per-hour raise for workers at the end of May…

Meanwhile, some companies that employ essential workers right now have seen increased sales and boosted executive pay in recent months. Kroger, for example, saw same-store sales increase 30 percent in March as customers stocked up on groceries, according to Winsight Grocery Business. And Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen received a 21 percent increase in compensation last year, boosting his income to more than $14 million.

Members of Congress and President Donald Trump have also come under fire for failing to pass hazard pay increases for frontline workers even as they honor the heroism of essential employees with military flyovers and words of praise at press conferences.

The HEROES Act—$3 trillion legislation passed by the House last Friday—includes a $200 billion “Heroes Fund” aimed at providing hazard pay for frontline workers, but the proposal’s fate is unclear in the Republican-controlled Senate, which left town for Memorial Day recess on Thursday.

Watch Sanders’ full town hall:

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  1. christofay

    CARES and HEROS, anyone? The CARES act bailed out the bankers and many bigcos before Congress fled town. Pelosi’s HEROS in part bails out lobbyists galore so they can continue to propagandize on the for-profit health care system, perpetual war, and other central government disasters. I am sick of Pelosi being openly hypocritical towards Americans.

    1. MLTPB

      The mismatch is in size.

      We are way too big for our opponent in this pandemic war.

      As such, we are all on the frontline…or at least when any who is wearing a mask.

      You are a hero if you need to cover your face getting a cup of Latte, or diapers for your kid, or 90 yr old father.

      We are all heroes, except those with 100% remoteness.

    2. Code Name D

      Forgive me, but Sanders rings hollow at this point. He is only going after corporations because he is aloud too. Where is his criticism for the Democratic leadership for doing exactly the same thing. Pelosi constantly talks about protecting workers, but only manages to deliver means tested crumbs while giving corporations billions. And Bernie says nothing.

      I can no longer ignore this silence.

  2. Carla

    It was nauseating to me to see that during Senate negotiations over elements of the USA Freedom Act, “Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Steve Daines (R-MT) failed by one vote to pass a rule prohibiting warrantless surveillance of internet search and browsing records.”

    Bernie could have been that one vote, but he didn’t bother to show up. And the act passed without that protection for you and me.

    AT&T and others paid big time to make sure the Wyden and Daines rule failed. Did they pay Bernie to be a no-show? Dunno.

    But I’ve had it with Bernie. My Bernie yard signs came down that day.

    Even though he quit his presidential campaign, he could have done something for every American by showing up to vote for the Wyden rule. But he was a no-show. Nauseating.

    1. Big River Bandido

      This “analysis” is West Wing level theory.

      There are no “surprise” votes in the Senate; it is the job of the “leaders” to count votes. Senators who have to miss votes usually have their vote “paired” with another senator voting the other way, who will also be absent or agrees to vote “present” or “not voting”.

      If Sanders has been there, almost certainly another vote would have appeared on the other side as well.

      1. John Wright

        In this case, if Sanders had voted “yes” and his vote needed to be countered, then by voting he would have shined light on the cynical politician who flipped their vote from “yes” to “no”.

        The senator’s constituents, who likely wanted a “yes”, would have been made more aware of their self-serving politician.

        So there was some value in Bernie voting “yes”, even if the outcome would not have changed.

        1. T

          No light would have been shown – not unless Pence had to step in – but I would have loved to see him vote yes.

          This is a thing people have trouble with, that votes are almost never a surprise. So when something is presented as “losing by one vote” it appears the whole thing was decided in a moment. But that’s not what happened. No more than a manager determines your raise when they meet with you.

          1. deplorado

            Pence would not have stepped in, because 60 votes were required, not 50.
            John Wright is correct.

            Bernie was a no show, and I don’t care for the reason, nor for anything else he has to say anymore.

      2. sd

        Votes are also shifted around based on the safety of seats.

        So someone in a safe seat is going to vote yes, but someone in a vulnerable seat needs to vote yes though their preference is no, they swap their votes, so the safe seat votes no and the vulnerable seat votes yes.

        So votes may not even mean what you think they mean.

      3. occasional anonymous

        Sorry, but I find myself agreeing with Carla. Sanders didn’t bother to vote because he was at home doing a Climate Change stream. Preaching to the choir; as if anyone who would be watching a Sanders stream wasn’t already well aware of the danger of Global Warming. Whether it would have changed the outcome or not Sanders should have voted, because it was simply the right thing to do.

        There’s far more going on right now with Sanders than just the implosion of his campaign. I’m really wondering if someone pulled a ‘those are some cute grandkids ya got there. Be an awful shame is anything was to happen to them…’ or similar on him, or if he’s just broken and demoralized by his grand strategy completely failing in the face of liberal reaction. He is consistently dropping the ball in circumstances where he should be omnipresent and thriving. His ‘movement’ also seems to have largely disintegrated.

        Personally I’m going back and reading Lenin again. The electoral route has completely failed. The Democrats have made it clear that they can’t be reformed, and the party can’t be seized (and will in fact eat the brains of anyone who tries, eg the entire ‘Squad’). Maybe it’s time again for “All Power to the Soviets!”.

      4. CarlH

        No need for the West Wing snarky remark in my opinion. I agree with Carla here, and your lesson in technicalities does nothing to stop the reality that Bernie has done several things since ending his campaign to elicit a reaction like Carla’s and my own. Optics matter, especially while the movement you are nominally the “leader” of is getting crushed from every angle. It makes it appear as if you (Sanders) is helping in that crushing.

    2. Oh

      Bernie has learned a lot from Obama. Talking is easier than doing anything constructive. I don’t know why any left wing person would listen to Bernie any more.

      1. AdamK

        The guy is OLD and tired. It is about time that a young candidate will surface that could energize and be more effective. The young are waiting, doing nothing, for a 78 years old to save them. It is also about time that reps in Congress and Senate will be limited to a certain age way younger that Sanders, Biden, Pelosi and McConnell.

        1. Aumua

          Well, the good news is that there are so many backseat candidates and/or inspiring leaders here on NC that I’m sure will be stepping up any minute now… oh wait, are we all old too? Damn.

          1. orlbucfan

            You can bet ole crooked Beijing Mitch would have doubled down if Bernie had been there to vote. By the way, Patty Murray was MIA, too.

        2. Leftie

          Old and tired or young and energetic.Makes little difference. This country is NOT going to swing far left, not now, not ever. Both parties feed from the same trough. You won’t convince the “Big Money” guys who think left that it would be a great idea to slash say one third of their gross incomes because dammit, it’s just the right thing to do. We’re not going to gather this country back up again. It’s lost. Too much money and power and influence. We’ve been on the decline for forty or so years, heading down a path for which there is no return. Oh you can still plant your garden and send your kids to school to one of those VERY expensive elite colleges. The whole thing will still look pretty much the same BUT, health care WON’T be free, schools will not be free, and Bezos will NOT give the folks at Amazon a raise. You’ll have just enough money to be smug about your rung on the ladder and you can still buy a Season Ticket to the Forty Niners except this year, they’re thirty seven hundred, up a few bucks from last year. Joe won’t get it done, but while he’s enjoying the “time in office” the other side will be plotting how to completely eliminate the black/hispanic vote almost assuring them the big white house forever. The radical “shift” we’ve been talking about has been taking place for many years but it was on the other side.

    1. Big River Bandido

      General strikes require much more than that. They also require a level of political organization not present in this country.

      1. Anarcissie

        If essential workers are essential, then the obvious way for them to raise their wages is (1) organize, and (2) strike. If you just ask the bosses to be nice, they’re not going to do it, because they didn’t get to be bosses by being nice, especially to those further down the economic food chain.

        Anyway, all workers are ‘essential’. No working class, no capitalism.

        A general strike requires not only organization but preparation, because, as with the plague, almost everything stops and the bosses send forth cops and propagandists to stop the strike. I agree that we are certainly not prepared to fight one now.

        But we could be in the not too distant future.

    2. marym

      Everyone who’s not an essential worker who thinks essential workers need to strike, also need to organize and make a commitment to strike support.

  3. anon14

    A major cause of wage-slavery to begin with must be government privileges for private credit creation, i.e. for “the banks” – the means by which so many small farms and businesses have been legally stolen AND the means by which labor power has been eroded by automation and outsourcing financed with what is, in essence, the public’s credit but for private gain.

    So, to the extent they support such privileges, Progressives, including the MMT School, are part of the problem, not the solution.

    And no MMT enthusiasts, the solution to wage slavery to the private sector is not wage slavery to government but a focus on justice and ethics.

  4. Tom Stone

    You don’t like warm Fuzzies?
    I LOVE warm Fuzzies!
    And Twinkies, Twinkies are good.
    Twinkies with Bernay’s sauce, washed down with Cherry Kool Aid, it’s what’s for dinner!

    1. Knot Galt

      That’s it! It is those warm Fuzzies that keep getting caught in my throat. My body has built up an immune response to the Fuzzies and starts constricting my throat to the point I can no longer breath. Especially when I add a few McConnell nuggets to the Bernay sauce!

      I think I am not the only one to develop this immune response.

      Could be this flim-flammery going on in Congress is more deadly a virus than COVID-19?

  5. Jesper

    Is it yet another example of: People get paid what they can bagain for, which sometimes but not always is what they are worth?
    If it is then the way forward might be to increase the bargaining power of the workers. But due to what appears to be a +90% legislative capture then the bargaining power of workers will be kept to a minimum.
    The first by the post system often seem to devolve into a two (sometimes three) party system and if the wealthy are interested in keeping their gains then the only way for them to do so is to take over not one but the two biggest parties. If they control none they’ll lose, if they control one then they’ll lose so they have no choice but to control both of the big parties.

    1. Left in Wisconsin

      No one gets paid what they are worth (except in the broken clock is right twice-a-day sense). People get paid what they can “persuade” someone to pay them.

      It is just a slight simplification to say that the unions in this country were virtually all organized in the period 1933-41 with significant help from communists and socialists and with serious concern from parts of the PTB that more radical solutions than unions were a distinct possibility, even if the very idea of unions was hated by most of them. Virtually all union gains since then, including the public sector, were from safe me-too-ism during or after WW2. Of course, there have been hardly any gains in the last 40 years. Not to denigrate by any means heroic efforts to organize over that time, just noting that there is little to show for it.

      We are so far from that kind of “moment” now. There is no class politics, there is no working class “of, by, and for itself,” there is real confusion about (re)building unions nationally vs transnationally, etc., etc. The unions that we have now are entirely engaged in a (perfectly legitimate) effort to hold onto to what they’ve got, not break new ground or expand their reach. The fact that there is no real effort being made to organize Amazon warehouses says all that needs to be said.

      There are a number of really good policy proposals bouncing around to increase the bargaining power of unions – card check instead of mandatory voting, increasing penalties for employer anti-union efforts, first contract arbitration, sectoral bargaining even without unions, etc. What there isn’t is a class-based union movement to make any of this happen against massed political power on the other side (in both parties).

      That said, sparks come, often unforeseen, from unlikely places and events. Thankfully, the past is not the future. But color me skeptical that a working class uprising is in the cards.

  6. TMoney

    Actually, calling people Heros for doing a difficult job and then refusing to support them in any meaningful way is a time honored tradition. Even unreformed Imperial Adventurers saw this.

    1. bassmule

      The hill our country is going to die on is this:

      Nobody gets nothin’ in this f*ckin’ country without working for it. That is Rule One. You must work to live.

      What are our leaders really worried about? This: Who’ll clean the toilets unless they are in desperate circumstances? Somehow it never, ever occurs to these truly fine citizens–freemarketeers one and all–that the market forces they espouse will gladly make that determination for them. Maybe janitors should be paid like doctors.

      Drop this “Heroes” sh*t. Pay people what they’re worth. Everybody needs a clean restroom. Nobody needs Jamie Dimon.

  7. KLG

    After Bernie quit in the middle of the 4th inning, why should anyone listen to him?

    And yes, I want my money back. I never really expected a win, though hope was strong. Quitting was a faithless act I did not expect. Silly me.

    1. edmondo

      After the way he acted in 2016, why would you think 2020 would be different? “Feckless” isn’t just a word in the dictionary.

      His term ends in 2024. Time to CARES about a different HERO I suppose.

      1. jsn

        It’s important to always undermine your alies because they’re not as good as you.

        That’s how the left has built all its winning coalitions for the last 50 years.

        1. wilroncanada

          Thanks, jsn.
          I was just about to recheck what blog I was reading. I thought it was NC, but it was reading like UBB. United Bernie Bashers. Some prog coalition! “If only he did exactly what we wanted him to do every minute of the day. Then every one of us, except maybe one person, would still be pissed off at him, instead of at ourselves.”

  8. shinola

    Those ungrateful workers! They just don’t properly appreciate a nice pat on the head & a sincere “atta boy/girl”.

    What’s the world coming to?

    1. jr

      It was during the second Gulf War that I came to hate the word “heroes.” As a vet whose only heroics consisted of decimating the worlds supply of German Pilsner during the first Gulf War, getting called a hero simply told me that the individual addressing me was a bit of a nit, no matter how well intentioned. I’d usually smile and make a joke about my liver getting a Purple Heart…

      It was when someone would start waxing on in the abstract about the heroism of our fighting forces that I would get incensed. I would ask them why heroes were treated so badly when they return. I would get scoffs and skeptical looks. Someone would always say “But the GI Bill!” or “Free healthcare!”

      When I would respond that 1. it’s not nearly enough return for the risks involved, 2. not all get the Bill and 3. that for naive service members entering the world of academics there is an entire industry of shitty trade schools and certification programs eager to bilk them, they would get testy and demand to know what my problem was. When I told them I was a vet, they would go quiet.

      Make no mistake, when you hear someone bleating on about heroes in uniform it’s usually themselves supplanting the protagonist in the high school theatre production of “War!” in their head. It’s like a child watching the Avengers movies who self references himself with a cry of “Iron Man!” and then runs about making rocket noises. I have NEVER heard a service member use that word in such a context.

      (Please note I despise militarism and jingoism in any form.)

      1. flora

        Seems like ‘hero’ is the term the public gives to people who do or are expected to sacrifice themselves for some greater good but who are then neglected and considered disposable once a crisis passes and the public feels safe. See how the NYC FD and PD were treated right after the 9 11 event compared to how they were treated a year and later during contract negotiations. Or this:

      2. Scott1

        Something is going to break. People are being forced into seeing their kids hungry. Was my over all thing to say. I’ve gone so far as to say that the Trump Administration makes it an imperative for States to issue their own legal tender, Section 10 be made modern, Or a Bill for Services Rendered be passed on to the Fed Account to be paid. States cannot allow their people to starve. This is the bottom line and then we talk about real write downs of rent and mortgages.
        I stopped here because jr is a vet. I recognize that I ought have been a soldier for a calling, destiny, but viewed the movie camera as a machine gun for changing things. I drove a lighting and grip truck and had a Viet Nam Helicopter Pilot working under me. Now I am aware there may be things the equal as horrors and hard fighting to do, but from all I know none are more demanding of a guys being.
        It was an honor for the man to work in my department and I made sure to treat him with utmost respect.
        Now I have to say, that I highly recommend grip and electric on location work to former soldiers. I believe it suits them and it does pay well if you are in LA or NYC. Eventually I kept a pistol in my truck. A location with “Character” is either filthy or dangerous, or both. Some people don’t get it, and don’t know how to handle themselves. “This is the Bronx.” they said.
        A bunch of film people in a bad neighborhood need to know what happens when the sun goes down.
        Further i’ve been out in the woods & weather filming explosions. I mean familiar is familiar.

      3. eg

        Your reaction squares with that of my father (former RCAF) who had no use for any overt display of militarism nor the disingenuous panoply that goes with it.

  9. Paul Jurczak

    “Corporations Praise Frontline Workers as ‘Heroes’ While Refusing to Pay Them More” – it is much more cost-efficient this way. Shareholder value maximization ideology requires exactly this kind of behavior. PR talking heads are on the payroll, and they have to earn their upper middle class paychecks. Let’s not pretend that it is surprising in any shape or form.

  10. Kurtismayfield

    It only costs a few million to lie to the public that you are supporting the workers. It costs way more to actually pay them l. Sadly a lot of country falls for the lies the corporations give them, and when that doesn’t work they sic one half of the class on the other over culture war grounds.

    I have seen it work for far too long, and until people wake up and unionize it will never stop.

  11. The Rev Kev

    It’s sad to see Bernie settling for these type of anodyne statements & tweets while not doing the real fighting in the Senate which is kinda his job. I think that when he pulled out, something changed in the American political landscape but it is difficult to tell what as the Coronavirus pandemic is masking what is going on. Even here, when the debates were on you would see hundreds of comments and remarks as people were being fired up & following all the details. But when he folded, it was like a Shakespearean drama where a character’s fault leads to his end and there was a sense of a general letdown. In the end, it won’t matter if he was a good man or a bad man. History will say that because of his two runs for the Presidency, that it short-circuited the possibility of the formation of a third party in American politics.

    1. edmondo

      History will say that because of his two runs for the Presidency, that it short-circuited the possibility of the formation of a third party in American politics.

      And that makes him as treacherous as Obama. Talking big talk about Hope and Change (and taking 300 million dollars from the gullible) while endorsing Clinton and Biden. Bernie has no credibility in my house.,

      1. a different chris

        Give me a break.

        So you are claiming there was actually no need for a Third Party before 2016? Everything was hunky-dory and just when it wasn’t Sanders came along and screwed, treacherously you say, everything up?

        Sanders was a Third Party candidate! For decades! Fat lot of good it did him.

        If a Third Party could actually function under our Constitution we would have 3, 4, 5 or more viable parties. The best we can hope for is a new party to knock off one of the two old ones. Good luck with that, it’s only been like a century-and-a-half since that’s happened.

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      Bernie’s abdication would sting far less were there only some younger persons to take up his mantle. That was a great concern to me when he was still in the race for President. Would he bring in a Wallace or a Truman?

    3. Aumua

      History will say that because of his two runs for the Presidency, that it short-circuited the possibility of the formation of a third party in American politics.

      I would think that since he didn’t try to run as a third party it would leave that option open as an unknown still.

    4. Basil Pesto

      History will say that because of his two runs for the Presidency, that it short-circuited the possibility of the formation of a third party in American politics.

      I daresay anyone coming to this conclusion would be a dilettante, not an historian.

    1. CarlH

      Agree. For me, that is almost as much a career defining vote as the vote to give Bush the go ahead for Iraq. You can’t make up for a vote as bad as that, no matter how long you stay in and how much other “good” you do. That vote helped to sell this country down the river for the foreseeable future. I also began to believe him when he says Biden is his good friend, and that speaks poorly to Bernie’s judgement. He knows how horribly Biden has injured large swaths of the American people throughout his career, knows he is a pathological liar and would squish him and his movement like a bug without giving it a thought, and still calls him his friend. That was insulting to me, because he is essentially saying that he is great friends and has warm feelings for one of the architects of our misery.

  12. bulfinch

    If you’re deemed essential, but you’re paid like you’re incidental, then what’s left to do?


    You must withhold what is regarded as being so essential that you are being asked to risk your life in order to to do it. Our only points of leverage as citizens: our labor and our vote.

  13. David in Santa Cruz

    Bernie will be 79 years old by the November election and already suffered a heart attack during the campaign. There is a nation-wide pandemic that is killing old people, if you haven’t noticed. What is Bernie? A kamikaze pilot? Give the poor man a break!

    It’s pathetic that the Left can do no better than throwing their grandpa to the wolves. Bernie was never perfect, but it seems that he was the best that we could do when politics have become so transactional and meretricious. That is a terrible shame — but it’s not Bernie’s fault.

    I share his disgust at all this “Plantation P.R.” about happy slaves being peddled by our billionaire overlords…

  14. ewmayer

    I say it was ‘Nauseating’ to see Bernie Sanders warmly endorse for president his good buddy who represents and provides legislative support for exactly the worst kinds of these depredations of the kleptocapitalists. So there’s that.

    Talk is cheap, Bernie.

  15. Tom

    Who is Bernie talking to?? The millions who voted for Biden?! Face it bern man, there s a very large section of the population who simply doesn’t care about those workera otherwise the primaries votes would have looked a lot different. Instead you should be critiscing the fools who voted for Biden.

  16. Glen

    “Essential” really mean “sacrificial”. These workers health and life are being sacrificed.

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