Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg met with striking VTA drivers before a fundraising event at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School Saturday, expressing support for their cause amid a broader defense of organized labor nationwide.

With the high school’s green room plastered in signs as the strike enters its second week, the mayor of South Bend listened and asked questions for 15 minutes as nearly 20 full-time drivers discussed their struggle to negotiate a contract with TCI, a company the VTA subcontracts to employ and hire drivers. Although 21 drivers went on strike last Friday, the transit authority has kept buses running with a combination of managers and replacement drivers behind the wheel.

On Saturday, Mr. Buttigieg framed his understanding of the drivers’ strike within the American narrative of using organized labor to combat wage stagnation.

“One of the reasons everyone is following your story closely right now,” Mr. Buttigieg he told the roomful of drivers, “is that we have a case where at least as I understand it, there’s been a real resistance to making it possible to organize. So I’m here to hear a little bit more about what you’re up against . . . and to also let you know that I’m supportive, and make sure that I can understand your story so that I can share it.”

The meeting with the drivers was a prelude to a sold-out event at the high school performing arts center where the Indiana mayor went on the stump before a crowd of some 800 people.

But before that Mr. Buttigieg promised he would share the drivers’ story on the campaign trail.

“I’m going to be keeping in touch, and I’m going to be looking for good news from Martha’s Vineyard and please let us know how I can be supportive,” he said. “But also know that I’ll be letting others know about your story, because I think it can inspire a lot of other people in other places...hang in there.”

Drivers and their families then filed into the PAC, where they were greeted with applause and a standing ovation from those attending Mr Buttigieg’s campaign event.