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Bernie Sanders rallies union organizers in Richmond

The National is a major concert venue in Richmond. On Sunday evening, it hosted a series of free shows in support of workers of Virginia’s seven Starbucks  stores that formed unions. 

Iman Djehiche has worked at a Midlothian Starbucks for two years and kicked off her store’s unionization effort. It was successful.  "It was disbelief," Djehiche said. "It took a while for it to like fully kick in and that, 'Hey, we have a union now, you know?'"

Djehiche was inspired by the first store to unionize, in upstate New York. Her coworker, Taylor Huggins says their actions are pushing others too.  "I think it's just going to snowball because we were inspired by Buffalo," Huggins noted. "And I think other Virginia stores and stores all over are going to be inspired by us and everyone else that is already unionized."

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
Seth Wenig
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

Politicians are joining in on the momentum. Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont said it was extraordinary that so many stores had unionized. "Including seven here in Virginia," Sanders noted as the crowd cheered. "Who knew? Virginia!"

Virginia has what’s known as a “right to work” law which weakens unions' bargaining power. Sanders pitched the unionization effort as a threat to what he said were unfair labor practices. "They all worry that all over this country because of your efforts people are going to stand up and say enough is enough."

Workers at a Starbucks in Farmville will vote on forming a union next week. 

Jahd Khalil is a reporter and producer in Richmond.