As many as a thousand union members and supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders rallied outside the Indiana Statehouse Friday in support of laid-off Carrier factory workers.
Sanders' last-minute appearance at the protest came days before Tuesday's primary election, where the Carrier story has taken center stage.
The diverse crowd on the statehouse lawn wielded signs reading "Keep it made in America" and "Save our jobs, stop corporate greed," and chanted union slogans like "stand up, fight back."
Many of them were there just for Sanders, who gave an energetic speech calling Carrier's plans to close its Indianapolis factory and move 1,400 jobs to Mexico "unbelievable."
"This is the kind of corporate behavior that is destroying the middle class of this country," Sanders said, to big cheers. "This is the kind of corporate behavior that together, we will end."
The candidate deviated from the standard stump speech he gave in Lafayette and Bloomington this week to focus on Indiana labor issues. He railed against free trade agreements he says have gutted the manufacturing industry, and gave his usual promises for universal health care and access to education -- including job training.
Sanders isn't the only candidate who's picked up Carrier on the Indiana campaign trail, but union leaders who rallied the crowd said he's the only one who's touting it honestly.
"It's not a campaign slogan. It's real. And our communities feel it," said national AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka. "There are mothers and fathers right now who are wondering how they're gonna pay their bills. … And it was all so that Carrier could make another dollar in profit."
Trumka opened his speech by echoing the crowd's call to "Fire [Indiana Gov.] Mike Pence." The AFL-CIO hasn't endorsed a presidential candidate, but it has endorsed Pence's opponent, John Gregg.
At the rally, Gregg pledged to "end the war on working men and women, the middle class, benefits and your right to bargain together."
Carolina Castoreno, the daughter of a union bricklayer and head of the state's Native American Students Alliance, came to the rally to see Bernie Sanders -- but says she wants to see change in state government, too.
"We have seen the damage … from having two Republican governors in a row who do not care about workers in Indiana," she said, referring to recent blows to unions like Indiana's Right to Work law.
Around her, Sanders supporters were passing out stickers and registering people to vote. But though the rally and the march that followed energized workers for the primary, it may be a different story for the workers at Carrier.
In their speeches, they pledged to fight the company's move to Mexico until their last day on the job. But steelworker Brooks Potts, who came to the rally from Chesterton, said he thinks "it's over" for those employees -- and that now, political action against overseas trade agreements is the best way to help them.
"Hopefully other people will see that we've got good workers here in Indiana, skilled workers," he said, "and will come to Indiana and provide jobs."