Workers cheered and applauded as Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., touted the tenets of their movement.
"We need a national movement to tell every Republican, and every Democrat, that we are not going to cut Social Security," Sanders shouted from the podium. "This is as good a time as any to invest in infrastructure and put our people back to work."
At least 270 people attended Monday's Labor Day rally/barbecue in Burlington's Memorial Auditorium, judging by the number of Styrofoam food trays handed out. Smoke from the grill outside billowed into the hall as attendees came in from the rain, took their seats, and scarfed down burgers and hot dogs.
Most of them came to hear Sanders speak, and slipped out when he finished and several union representatives took the stage.
Rob Koch, 46, and Patti Tursi, 45, a couple from Burlington, stayed even after Sanders had left.
"I find his message to be a message of resiliency and hope, rather than a message of despair," Tursi said.
"I don't always know what the solutions are, but I understand the problems," Koch said. "He is presenting solutions."
In his speech, Sanders said the media, infatuated with the rich and powerful, overlook the working people - the letter carriers, farmers, wait staff and mechanics "who really keep this country going." He noted Vermont's reconstruction in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, and the workers "doing an amazing job, rebuilding those roads."
He mentioned the Chittenden County law enforcement officers who headed to Windham County to lend a hand, and the father and son who rushed to check on the Rutland City reservoir Aug. 28, while Irene raged around them.
"That's what working people do," Sanders said.
The body of Rutland water treatment plant supervisor Michael Garofano, 55, was found Aug. 29 near the brook feeding the reservoir. The search continued Friday for his son, Michael Gregory Garofano, 24, whom authorities suspect also died.
In the midst of an "unemployment disaster," Americans need jobs, Sanders said. Corporations must stop outsourcing work, he said.
"It's time they started manufacturing those products here in Vermont, and here in America," Sanders said.
In light of the deficit, the nation must not balance the budget on the backs of the "weak and the vulnerable," many of whom have lost not just their jobs, but their life savings, he said. Instead, the wealthiest Americans must pay more in taxes.
Sanders also reiterated his support for a single-payer health care system.
"Our job is not ever to give up," Sanders said. "It is not about you alone. It is about your kids and your grandchildren."