Sen. Bernie Sanders Arrives in Southern California; Will Make 3 Campaign Stops Ahead of State’s Primary Election

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With California's closely watched June 5 primary just days away, Sen. Bernie Sanders is inserting himself into the action, making three campaign stops in Southern California on Saturday.

But the senator from Vermont is not throwing his weight behind any candidates; instead, he's pushing for workers' and civil rights in a series of town halls and rallies.

"So many people in Vermont and here in California are struggling to make ends meet," Sanders told KTLA in an interview Friday. "We have to create a better economy that works for all people not just the top few."

Sanders will begin his day Saturday at a roundtable event with Disneyland resort employees in Anaheim, where unions are pushing legislation to increase wages for hospitality workers. Earlier this year, a union-funded survey found more than 10 percent of the theme park's employees had experienced homelessness in the past two years.

"We're here to stand with those workers and fight for at least 15 bucks an hour now, and a dollar per hour more into the future," Sanders said.

On Thursday, the resort outlined its proposal to increase unionized workers' wages to $15 an hour by 2020. While a step in the right direction, that's not enough, Sanders said.

"Right now you have people, as I understand it, working at Disneyland who are actually living in tents," he told KTLA. "They can't afford an apartment. People are struggling to eat. That should not be the case in a profitable corporation that pays its CEO a huge amount."

The living wage ordinance theme park employees are hoping to qualify for the November ballot in Anaheim would require all large employers accepting city subsidies to pay at least $15 an hour by 2019. Salaries would then increase by $1 an hour each year through 2022.

The Anaheim event will be followed by a town hall in Carson with dockworkers from the Port of Long Beach, who Sanders characterized as exploited.

"These are so-called independent contractors who pay a whole lot of money to lease their vehicles and in many cases are making subsistence wages," he said.

Next, he'll head to a rally in support of criminal justice reform in downtown Los Angeles. He'll be joined by Patrisse Cullors, an L.A. native and one of the organization's co-founders, and activist Shaun King, known for using social media to highlight injustice.

Sanders said he hopes to bring attention to the proportionally high number of people incarcerated in the U.S. — 2.1 million people according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics' most recent data — and the large amount of money spent to keep them there.

The senator said many of them are low-level offenders whose lives are being destroyed by a "dysfunctional" system that disproportionately affects the impoverished and people of color.

"Their crime is that they are poor," he said. "They cannot afford bail or they are in jail because they can't afford to pay a traffic fine. Can you believe that? This is the United States in 2018."

Since the 2016 election, Sanders has taken his message to dozens of states including Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada — all states with early presidential primaries. And in 2020, California will join them after moving its presidential primary to early March.

So is Sanders' campaigning more than just an enduring battle against income inequality? Earlier this week, in an interview on C-SPAN, his 2016 campaign manager Jeff Weaver said the senator is "considering another run for the presidency."

But on Friday, Sanders told KTLA he is "focusing on the 2018 midterm elections, the most important election in my lifetime."

But, he added, "2020 is two years after that."

Watch KTLA's full interview with Sen. Sanders here.

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