Former U.S. vice president and rumored 2020 candidate Joe Biden visited Stop & Shop employees in Boston Thursday who have been on strike for the past week.
Biden appeared alongside Boston Mayor Marty Walsh at a rally for union members and employees at the South Bay Center Stop & Shop location in Dorchester.
Speaking to an estimated crowd of thousands, Biden said he was getting sick and tired of the way American workers were being treated.
"People who bust their neck, people who go out and make a living, people who play by the rules, people who have done everything they have supposed to do, and people are entitled to be treated with respect and decency and fairness," said Biden.
"This is morally wrong what's going on in this country and I've had enough of it. I'm sick of it, and so are you," Biden said. "We gotta stand together, and if we do we will take back this country, I mean it."
The potential Democratic presidential candidate had tweeted his support for Stop & Shop employees last week.
Walsh said to the crowd he was there to support the workers as someone who grew up in a labor union family.
"The labor was a family, the unions were a family and they still are a family," said Walsh, recalling how union benefits helped his mother after his father passed away. "When I heard about this strike, and I saw some of the papers going back and forth, and one, the company wanted to take away health insurance, that's something we can't stand for."
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The rally had several United Food & Commercial Workers members address the crowd prior to Biden's appearance.
Before Biden's arrival, U.S. Sen. Ed Markey spoke to the crowd saying what the grocery store is doing to the unionized workers is just wrong. He said the chain's desire to replace workers with more self-service checkouts was appalling.
"We know that nothing replaces the years of sweat and hard work and the loyalty of Stop & Shop employees," said Markey. "Nothing can replace the friendly face at the butcher counter, on the bakery, nothing can replace the cashiers and baggers who make the end of everyone's day just a little bit easier. And nothing can replace the contract that recognizes your hard work and dedication to providing excellent customer service."
Stop & Shop workers said the former vice president attending their rally is proof their picket has gone national.
"It's huge," said Vanessa Santiago, a striking Stop & Shop worker. "Having him here will attract more people to come, and we need the attention right now."
More than 31,000 employees in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island have been on strike for the past week to express their frustration with the company’s stalled negotiations with the union that represents them.
Fed up employees walked off the job on April 11 over "unreasonable" wage and benefit cuts. UFCW said company shareholders voted to give themselves an 11.1 percent raise in dividends.
"We all want to get back to work, we all want to get back inside and do our job," Santiago said. "I'm very passionate about what I do, always have been, and it bothers me very much that I can't get in there and work."
Stop & Shop issued a statement Thursday, saying "There is nothing we want more than having our associates back in the stores, taking care of customers and our communities. We have offered fair and responsible contracts and remain in active negotiations to reach new agreements as quickly as possible that keep our associates among the highest paid grocery retail workers in New England, while also providing excellent health care and increased contributions to a defined benefit pension plan."
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who has already said she is running for president, met with striking workers on Friday in Somerville. Democratic presidential contender Cory Booker has also voiced his support via Twitter.