Bernie Sanders

Senator from Vermont
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Bernie Sanders dropped out of the presidential race on April 8, 2020. This page is no longer being updated.
Sanders, an independent, is back after waging an unsuccessful challenge to Hillary Clinton in 2016 with a democratic socialist platform that included free college tuition. His positions on those issues have driven the policy debate within the Democratic Party ever since. He was elected to the Senate in 2006 and was previously in the House for 16 years.
University of Chicago, B.A. (1964)
September 8, 1941
Jane Sanders; divorced from Deborah Shiling
Levi (son with Susan Mott)
Heather, Carina and David
Congressman from Vermont, 1991-2007;
Mayor of Burlington, 1981-1989


Bernie Sanders confronts former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on company's labor practices
Updated 5:43 PM ET, Wed Mar 29, 2023
Senator Bernie Sanders, who has roundly criticized former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz over the company's blatant attempts to shut down its own workers' unionization efforts, finally got to question Schultz during a hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on Wednesday. Over the course of roughly two hours on Wednesday morning senators questioned Schultz, currently Starbucks' chairman emeritus, about the company. Those on the left pressed Schultz on the coffee company's labor practices, and wondered how the former CEO can claim that the company acted lawfully, despite National Labor Relations Board findings that it did not. Those on the right painted Schultz as a successful CEO who has created hundreds of thousands of jobs, some taking the opportunity to defend business leaders in general and skipping questioning entirely. Later, one former and one current employee described seeing pro-union colleagues penalized and being punished themselves. "All over this country, workers are struggling. They want to join unions. They want better wages, better working conditions. They want that at Starbucks," Sanders said to reporters during a break in the proceedings. "I hope what today has done is to tell Mr. Schultz that the time right now is to do what is legal, to do what is appropriate, to sit down and negotiate a first contract with their workers." Schultz and Sanders face off Sanders, who has accused Schultz of "illegal anti-union activities" in the past, reiterated on Wednesday that "the fundamental issue we are confronting today is whether we have a system of justice that applies to all, or whether billionaires and large corporations can break the law with impunity." Sanders mentioned that Starbucks and the union have yet to sign a contract. "What is outrageous to me is not only Starbucks anti-union activities and their willingness to break the law, it is their calculated and intentional efforts to stall, stall and stall," he said. "What Starbucks is doing is not only trying to break unions, but even worse. They are trying to break the spirit of workers who are struggling to improve their lives. And that is unforgivable." Senators aren't the only ones who want more answers from Starbucks. During the company's annual shareholder meeting last week, investors voted to approve a proposal that would have the board of directors "commission and oversee an independent, third-party assessment of Starbucks' adherence to its stated commitment to workers' freedom of association and collective bargaining." Companies are not required to adhere to proposals that are approved -— but if they ignore them, they risk angering investors. The results of the vote were shared in an SEC filing Wednesday afternoon, after the hearing had wrapped. Starbucks said in its filing that it has a previously announced third-party human rights impact assessment already underway, which includes a "review of the principles of freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining." Since December 2021, nearly 300 Starbucks stores have voted to unionize and been certified by the NLRB. It's a relatively small number compared to the roughly 9,300 company-operated Starbucks stores in the United States. But union organizers are fighting an uphill battle against the company. NLRB administrative law judge Michael Rosas recently said that Starbucks had displayed "egregious and widespread misconduct" in its dealings with employees involved in efforts to unionize Buffalo, New York, stores, including the first location to unionize. Starbucks repeatedly sent high-level executives into Buffalo-area stores in a "relentless" effort, the judge wrote, which "likely left a lasting impact as to the importance of voting against representation." As a result, the company must reinstate and make whole a number of workers who were let go from locations in or around Buffalo, Rosas said. The judge also said that Schultz, then interim CEO, and another company leader must read the notice to employees, or be present at a meeting where the rights are read. When Sanders asked whether Schultz would read the notice, Schultz said no. "I am not, because Starbucks coffee company did not break the law," he said. Schultz said during his testimony Wednesday that "unequivocally," Starbucks "has not broken the law." He referred to Rosas' findings as "allegations," adding that "we're confident that those allegations will be proven false." Starbucks said in a statement at the time of Rosas' order that it is "considering all options to obtain further legal review," adding that "we believe the decision and the remedies ordered are inappropriate given the record in this matter." When Sanders asked Schultz to commit to exchanging proposals with the union within two weeks of the hearing, he declined to do so, saying instead that "we will continue to negotiate in good faith." Starbucks argues that it is the union that has dragged its feet to the bargaining table. Like getting 100 speeding tickets and claiming innocence Later in the morning, Senator Christopher Murphy questioned Schultz on his assertion that Starbucks has been acting legally, saying he was attempting to square Starbucks and Schultz's claim that it had done nothing wrong with repeated official findings otherwise. "It is akin to someone who has been ticketed for speeding 100 times saying I've never violated the law, because every single time — every single time — the cop got it wrong," Murphy said. Some senators defended Schultz as a stand-in for business leaders in general. "Mr. Schultz, I applaud you for your success. And I applaud all the CEOs out there for their success," said Senator Markwayne Mullin, who a few weeks ago got into a heated exchange with general president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Sean O'Brien during another HELP hearing. Senator Mitt Romney threw barbs at his fellow committee members. "It's somewhat rich that you're being grilled by people who have never had the opportunity to create a single job," Senator Mitt Romney said. "And yet they believe that they know better how to do so." In prepared remarks available on a Starbucks' website, Schultz reiterated his position that while he recognizes that Starbucks workers have a right to decide whether to join a union, he doesn't think they should. "Starbucks respects the right of all partners to make their own decisions about union representation," Schultz said. Regional NLRB offices have issued dozens of complaints against the company, covering over 200 unfair labor charges. In prepared remarks for the hearing, Schultz said, "Starbucks has complied with the National Labor Relations Act," by recognizing unions after they are certified by the NLRB. Schultz has served three stints as Starbucks' chief executive, most recently as interim CEO from April 2022 until earlier this month, when he handed over to current CEO Laxman Narasimhan ahead of schedule. In his prepared remarks, Schultz also spoke about the company's history, and its character as he sees it. "Starbucks follows its guiding principles, lives its mission and values, celebrates diversity and inclusion, and welcomes all on the belief that our differences make us better and stronger," he said. "We are a different kind of public company that balances profitability with social conscience. Aspiring to achieve that vision has been my life's work." 'You cannot be pro partner and anti union' Schultz on Wednesday praised the generous perks and benefits Starbucks offers. He acknowledged in his prepared remarks that when he returned last year it was because the company had "lost its way," but said that it is now back on track. That rosy image of the company, however, has been tainted by the high-profile efforts by Starbucks against the union, which unfolded under Schultz's leadership in 2022 and into this year. "You cannot be pro partner and anti union," said Maggie Carter, a barista and union organizer at a Starbucks in Knoxville, Tennessee, during the hearing. Starbucks uses the word "partner" for its employees. "It's well past time for the company to bargain in good faith," she said, adding, "Howard Schultz does not feel like a partner to me." Carter, who worked at Starbucks through the pandemic, said that when she raised concerns about store conditions to managers during that time they were unresponsive. "That was a huge catalyst to why we wanted to organize," she said. Jaysin Saxton, a former employee who said he was fired wrongfully, described what he saw as retaliatory behavior from Starbucks after he started organizing. "We were disciplined for minor things that happened in the store, like being written up for being two minutes late, which had never happened before," he said. Saxton said he has filed an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB and hopes to be reinstated at Starbucks. "We are coming came together to demand better pay, affordable health coverage and stronger safety procedures," he said. "I'm proud to be a leader of this new labor movement."


climate crisis
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Sanders has described climate change – now as well as during his 2016 run for president – as a global security threat. He is a leading proponent of the Green New Deal, the broad plan to address renewable-energy infrastructure and climate change proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. In August 2019, Sanders released a $16.3 trillion climate change program. His targets include meeting the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s goal of 100% renewable energy for electricity and transportation by 2030; cutting domestic emissions by 71% over that period; creating a $526 billion electric "smart grid”; investing $200 billion in the Green Climate Fund; and prioritizing what activists call a “just transition” for fossil fuel workers who would be dislocated during the transition. The Vermont independent would also cut off billions in subsidies to fossil fuel companies and impose bans on extractive practices, including fracking and mountaintop coal mining, while halting the import and export of coal, oil and natural gas. Sanders vows to recommit the US to the Paris climate accord, a landmark 2015 deal on global warming targets that Trump has pledged to abandon. More on Sanders’ climate crisis policy
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Sanders introduced his 21st-century Economic Bill of Rights in June 2019, in which he pledged “once and for all that every American, regardless of his or her income, is entitled to the right to a decent job that pays a living wage; the right to quality health care; the right to a complete education; the right to affordable housing; the right to a clean environment; and the right to a secure retirement.” In October 2019, he introduced a plan that would guarantee workers eventually take control of 20% stakes in the country’s largest companies through the issuance of new stock and would mandate that employees elect 45% of corporate boards of directors. The Sanders plan would also impose strict new guidelines on mega-mergers, while asking a revamped Federal Trade Commission to review deals pushed through during the Trump administration. Throughout his career, Sanders has been pro-union, saying in January, “If we are serious about reducing income and wealth inequality and creating good-paying jobs, we have to substantially increase the number of union jobs in this country.” In 2017, he supported a 10-year infrastructure plan costing $1 trillion. At the time, proponents estimated the plan would create 15 million jobs. He had put forth a similar proposal during his first presidential campaign. More on Sanders’ economic policy
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Sanders would eliminate tuition and fees at, as his campaign says, “four-year public colleges and universities, tribal colleges, community colleges, trade schools, and apprenticeship programs.” He unveiled legislation in June 2019 that would wipe out $1.6 trillion in undergraduate and graduate student loan debt for about 45 million people. The plan has no eligibility limitations and would be paid for with a new tax on Wall Street speculation. Sanders frequently describes education as a “human right.” That means “making public colleges, universities and historically black colleges and universities tuition-free and debt-free by tripling the work study program, expanding Pell grants and other financial incentives," he said. His “Thurgood Marshall Plan for Public Education” would seek to improve the K-12 system by taking aim at de facto segregation and public-school funding disparities while banning for-profit charter schools. More on Sanders’ education policy
gun violence
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Sanders describes “an epidemic of gun violence” in the US and has pushed for expanded background checks and the closing of assorted loopholes in firearm purchases. Sanders has consistently voted for legislation that would ban so-called assault weapons and said he would seek to do the same for high-capacity magazines. He said he would push for harsher punishments for “straw” purchases, when someone purchases a gun for someone who cannot legally possess a firearm. More on Sanders’ gun violence policy
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Sanders introduced “Medicare for All” legislation in 2017, which would have created a national government-run program providing comprehensive coverage with no premiums, deductibles or copays. He has taken this version of the plan one step further since its initial rollout to include long-term care at home and in the community for senior citizens and people with disabilities. Unlike some of his presidential opponents, Sanders says there should be no private insurance option except for items not covered by his Medicare for All act, such as elective procedures. Sanders argues that the increase in taxes would be more than offset by eliminating the premiums, deductibles and copayments associated with private health insurance. When asked during the first Democratic presidential debate about whether taxes would go up as a result of his health care plan, Sanders said: “Yes, they will pay more in taxes, but less in health care for what they get.” Sanders also supports importing drugs, allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and pegging the price of medicine in the US to the median price in five other developed nations. More on Sanders’ health care policy
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Sanders has called for comprehensive immigration legislation, which includes providing a path toward citizenship for undocumented immigrants. He has proposed providing legal status for those covered by the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which shields from deportation some undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children. Sanders has also called for restructuring Immigration and Customs Enforcement. More on Sanders’ immigration policy


What to watch for in CNN's town hall with Mike Pence
Updated 6:01 AM ET, Wed Jun 7, 2023
Former Vice President Mike Pence is set to field questions from Iowa voters in a CNN town hall Wednesday night after officially announcing off his bid for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination earlier in the day. The town hall will offer an early window into how Pence, who served under former President Donald Trump, plans to run against his prior boss, who's the front-runner for the GOP nomination. The two men have been at odds over Trump's effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election and incite an insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. Wednesday will also shed light on how Pence, a former Indiana congressman and governor, plans to try to differentiate himself from the early polling leaders like Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on issues like abortion, Russia's invasion of Ukraine and more. The town hall, hosted by CNN's Dana Bash, begins at 9 p.m. ET at Grand View University in Des Moines. The live audience will include Iowa Republicans and Iowa voters who say they plan to pre-register to take part in the Republican caucuses by the deadline set by the state GOP and who pledge to appear in person at the caucuses. Here are six things to watch in CNN's town hall: Pence vs. Trump on Capitol riot Pence was a Trump loyalist through their two campaigns as running mates and four years in office. But the two had a public falling-out after Trump urged Pence to attempt to overturn the results by rejecting some swing states' Electoral College votes. Pence insisted he had no constitutional authority to do so in his ceremonial role presiding over Congress as those votes were counted. Pence first took on his former boss in a February 2022 speech in which he was critical of the pressure Trump privately and publicly heaped on him. "President Trump was wrong," Pence said then. "I had no right to overturn the election." He has also said Trump endangered Pence's family, which was in the Capitol on January 6. Trump was slow to release a message telling his supporters to stop attacking the Capitol while Pence was inside and some of the mob were chanting death threats against him. Trump has continued to repeat falsehoods about voter fraud, which millions of his supporters have bought into, and he once again refused to concede that he lost during a CNN town hall last month. It's not yet clear to what extent Pence is willing to place his differences with Trump over the aftermath of the 2020 election at the center of his campaign. Pence's campaign announcement video, released early Wednesday, does not mention Trump. Wednesday's town hall will shed light on how the former vice president plans to approach the issue. New messages from Pence? Pence has been a regular speaker at conservative gatherings for months. But this week, when he filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to officially enter the 2024 race, the ground shifted. Now that he is a candidate, Pence will have to repair his image in the eyes of many conservatives who cast him aside after Trump's 2020 loss (and in some cases have booed him since). He'll have to offer a message that stands on its own, outside the context of his relationship with the former president. CNN's town hall -- following his official campaign launch earlier in the day -- will be an important opportunity to begin to do just that. The Iowa caucuses, which kick off the GOP nominating process in early 2024, will likely be crucial to Pence's hopes. "Iowa feels more like Indiana than any other state in the nation," he said in Des Moines last month. Abortion a key differentiator? In a Sunday night CNN town hall, one of Pence's rivals, Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador, was coy about her position on a federal abortion ban -- refusing to say whether she would support such a ban and after how many weeks into pregnancy it should take effect. Trump similarly refused to answer that question in the CNN town hall last month, saying only that he would determine what "is great for the country and what's fair for the country." DeSantis signed into law a six-week ban in Florida, triggering claims that the measure could be a liability in the general election if he wins the GOP nomination. The politics are clear: Conservatives oppose abortion rights and won a momentous victory when the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade. But the political battle over abortion rights, particularly at the state level, has benefitted Democrats since then, including playing a key role in the party's midterm success last year and in flipping the Wisconsin Supreme Court majority to liberals earlier this year. Pence, though, has been more willing to embrace a national effort to outlaw abortion. He said on New Hampshire's WMUR last month that he would "look for ways to advance the sanctity of life at the national level." He has also delved into more specific fights. He railed last month against a push in Ohio to enshrine abortion rights in the state's constitution via a ballot measure. He also said on CBS in April that he has "deep concerns" about the Food and Drug Administration's approval of the abortion drug mifepristone 23 years ago. How Pence differentiates himself from his rivals on abortion rights and restrictions could place the issue at the center of the campaign -- and play out in more detail on debate stages this summer and fall. Pence's faith at the forefront The battle over abortion policy is just one way in which Pence is likely to put his Christian faith at the forefront of his bid for the presidency, and there is a key demographic -- evangelical voters in Iowa -- to whom Pence will likely have to appeal in order to rise in the polls. The former vice president frequently calls himself "a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order." He's likely to highlight that faith, and detail the ways in which it has shaped him, as he launches his campaign. It won't be a departure from Pence's public life: his faith was a central theme in his bids for Congress and governor. Differences on Ukraine Another issue over which Pence is at odds with Trump and DeSantis is the United States' support for Ukraine against Russia's invasion. He has said there is no room in the GOP for "apologists for (Russian President Vladimir) Putin," drawing a contrast with Trump and DeSantis, who have been more tepid about the US role in the war. The issue could be one of the clearest differences among the GOP 2024 contenders, and one that is all but certain to be a focal point of debates later this year. Who is Pence's target: Trump or DeSantis? While early polls show Trump leading the Republican pack, many of the party's hopefuls have instead trained their fire on DeSantis -- an indicator that they believe that in order to take on Trump, they must first supplant the Florida governor as his chief rival. Many contenders, including Trump, Haley and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who entered the race on Tuesday, have hammered DeSantis over his legal battle with Disney. Haley at her CNN town hall Sunday called it "vendetta stuff." Whether Pence follows suit and targets DeSantis -- and how -- could clarify how he sees his potential path to the nomination and set the tone for the coming months.