UT student speaks alongside Greg Casar, Bernie Sanders to address Austin voters at labor-focused event


Kara Hawley

State Senator Bernie Sanders and congressional candidate Greg Casar host an Austin Labor Rally at the AFL-CIO parking lot on Oct. 29, 2022. The rally was held in support of unions in the city of Austin, Texas.

Ali Juell, Senior news reporter

With early voting in full swing, congressional candidate Greg Casar addressed voters Saturday at the Austin Labor Celebration & Rally. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett and unionized labor workers also spoke at the event, which focused on highlighting union efforts across Texas.

The event took place on Lavaca Street in the parking lot of Texas AFL-CIO, a state federation of unions. Casar spoke on a number of issues including abortion, voter turnout and health care in an effort to reach voters before Election Day.

Doggett said so far, in Travis County, voter turnout is lower this year than in the 2020 and 2018 elections.

“We need a lifelong commitment to long-term power building, … and that means organizing in our communities,” Casar said. “We have to stand up for the people we know and the people we know are coming for generations to come.”

Sanders addressed both national and local issues at the event. He said national inflation rates are a result of the pandemic and current Ukrainian conflict, and voters should support progressive candidates in order to bring about changes like increased minimum wage and improved healthcare access.

“Let me congratulate all of those who have stood up, fought back and created new unions here in Texas,” Sanders said. “The good news is that all over this country, we are now seeing an unprecedented level of union organizing.”

A number of unionization leaders spoke on their efforts and support for Casar, including history senior Henry Epperson. 

Epperson, a Via 313 pizzeria worker and union organizer, said at the event that he and his fellow workers successfully unionized the pizza chain’s North Campus location after a recent union election. He also voiced his support for Casar and Sanders in bolstering union efforts across the country.

“We have organized the first independent union for restaurant workers (of recent) in the South,” Epperson said. “(Organized labor) has the power to check and push back upon political and economic forces that can harm the working class, so it is important that we have elected officials willing to back organized labor.”

Sanders said he believes Casar is a future leader of the progressive movement and people must now turn out to the polls to continue to push forward efforts like his.

“I know what the trade union movement has always been about — that’s what the extraordinary concept of solidarity is about,” Sanders said. “You can’t do it alone. We make progress when we all stand together.”