CHARLESTON: Buttigieg Fares Poorly in Primary, Black Workers Force Early Departure from Photo-Op

Photo: Pete Buttigieg flees Fight for $15 event after workers turn against him

By Miriam Cordova

Editor’s Note: Shortly after this article was published, reports surfaced that Pete Buttigieg will be dropping out of the Democratic Presidential race. 

Yesterday, Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg lost decisively in the South Carolina primary to former Vice-President Joe Biden. Receiving only eight percent of the primary vote, his support among Democrats has been steadily declining after a promising start in Iowa, culminating in a campaign photo-op gone wrong when a group of mostly Black workers interrupted his speech and forced him to flee from a local event.

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Buttigieg attempted to co-opt McDonald’s workers’ rally for his election campaign

While campaigning on Monday, Buttigieg was shouted down and run out of a Fight for $15 rally in Charleston as protesters criticized the former Mayor of South Bend, Indiana for “co-opting Black workers.”

One woman started the disruption by shouting, “You’re a flip-flopper!” in the middle of Buttigieg’s speech. Some workers organized by Fight for $15 initially attempted to distract from the disruption with their own chant, “We work! We fight! Put $15 on our check!” while he was still speaking, but more of the crowd was eventually won over to the chant, “Pete can’t be our president, where was $15 in South Bend?”

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Buttigieg, surrounded by media and campaigns workers, attempts to avoid embarrassment by fleeing the scene of the protest

Buttigieg made a beeline for his SUV, cutting his speech short and leaving after only five minutes. The disruption exposed Buttigieg as a hypocrite who had only joined the workers’ rally for self-promotion.

While Buttigieg’s opportunism is particularly glaring, every Democratic candidate leeches off the working class for electoral purposes. Some candidates may promise a higher minimum wage than others, but none would do away with the capitalist exploitation that continually drives wages down and worsens living conditions for workers. As the US President, it would be their job to enforce capitalism and to sanction exploitation.

The Fight for $15 campaign, backed by many Democrat politicians, the Service Employees International Union, and the American Federation of Labor – Congress of Industrial Organizations, has done its best to keep workers’ demands in the lane of economics, the goal being to raise the minimum wage without questioning why wages are so low to begin with. Monday’s ouster of Buttigieg illustrated how some workers recognized that their fight is about more than money – it is a political struggle, a struggle between the working class and the ruling class, and they were willing to undercut union leadership to let Buttigieg know he wasn’t welcome.

Spontaneous actions like these show how inept these politicians are when forced to deal with the anger of the masses face-to-face when their glamorous TV image evaporates. Unions and nonprofits cannot be allowed to restrict the political will of the workers who are willing to square up with those who would try to take advantage of them.