Democratic Hopefuls Visit Philadelphia to Support Unions, Campaign for Voters

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Sen. Bernie Sanders addressed a crowd at the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO convention on April 7, following Hillary Rodham Clinton’s speech there the day before.

Democratic presidential candidates have flocked to Philadelphia in anticipation of the April 26 Pennsylvania primary.
Sen. Bernie Sanders addressed a crowd at the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO convention on April 7, following Hillary Rodham Clinton’s speech there the day before.
Their stops occurred just a few weeks before the state primary. More recently, Sanders won the Wyoming primary on April 9, but he and Clinton evenly split the 14 delegates.
Overall, Clinton is leading the Democratic race.
According to recent polling data, both Clinton and Republican frontrunner Donald Trump are expected to dominate their respective opponents in Pennsylvania and New York, which has its primary on April 19.
Citing her immigrant grandfather, who worked in the Scranton lace mills for 50 years, Clinton pledged unwavering support to unions, saying a “strong and vibrant labor movement” is essential to her vision of America.
“When unions are strong, families are strong and America is strong,” she said. “That’s exactly the message to take to the country. When unions are strong, wages go up. We, together, have to stand up to those forces trying to weaken the labor movement and tell them ‘Not on our watch.’
“My promise to you, if I’m fortunate enough to be elected president, organized labor will always have a champion in the White House and a seat at the table.”
Sanders focused his speech on the need to change the status quo in the country as a whole when it comes to creating health care and Social Security benefits, creating free college tuition, raising the minimum wage and supporting unions, claiming these are not “radical ideas.”
“Real change in this country never takes place from the top on down,” he said. “It always took place from the bottom on up.”
In discussing unions and the workforce, he emphasized his disappointment at the fact that America is “the only major country” that does not guarantee paid family leave, which he followed by vowing to support three months of paid leave.
Both candidates also brought up domestic crises, such as what has been happening in Flint, Mich.
“Children being poisoned by water is something to make everyone in this room disgusted,” Sanders said.
But unlike Clinton, Sanders did not discuss anything related to international affairs or U.S. relations with Israel. He focused on fixing the country at home by creating more jobs and benefits.
“If elected president, we are together going to create an economy that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent,” Sanders said.
Following her address, when asked if she had a message for the Jewish community, Clinton said she remains committed to the state of Israel.
“Obviously, I’m a strong supporter committed to the state of Israel,” she said. “You can see that if you read my speech at AIPAC.”
Sanders voiced his support of education and accessibility, adding that it isn’t enough when examining public education to only look at younger levels such as first, second and third grades.
“Young people need more education,” he said, “and that is why I believe we should make public colleges and tuition free.”
“When we invest in a child’s education,” Clinton echoed, “we’re investing in a strong economy for everyone. Families deserve a president who will fight for priorities like in-home affordable child care, paid leave and equal pay for women. We deserve a president with a real plan to create good jobs with rising income.
“My opponent and I share many of the same progressive goals,” she continued. “We agree wages are too low. We both want to make the economy work for everyone and not just ones at the top.”
She stated support for Gov. Tom Wolf’s efforts to raise the minimum wage.
Clinton added that she’s “concerned some of [Sanders’] ideas won’t work because the numbers don’t add up.” And in regard to her other political opponents, Clinton said she’s the one with an actual plan to create more jobs.
“The GOP talks about building walls; my campaign is about breaking down the barriers to working families,” she said.
Overall, many voters at the convention agreed that religion is not the main focus of their Jewish vote, but rather the politician’s philosophy and the safety and security of Israel.
One Jewish voter, Roberta Dzubow, said she’d be thrilled if there was a Jewish candidate she could support, but Sanders is not that candidate, claiming he’s too anti-Israel.
“I don’t think [Sanders] has a real connection about Israel,” added Rich Shulman. “He’s shown in the past that being Jewish isn’t the most important. I find it difficult to support him because he’s been” both for Israel and against Jewish interests.
Though he was not there, Michael Hersch said the convention and Democratic support for unions has always been a stark contrast with the viewpoint of Republicans.
“Historically and, in particular, over the last number of years, the Democrats … operate more favorably to working people than Republicans, who are in the business of breaking up unions as often as they can,” said Hersch, regional director of the Jewish Labor Committee in Philadelphia.
“As union density goes down, it’s not coincidental that the income and wealth gap in this country gets larger,” Hersch continued. “It’s larger than it has been almost ever, and times where union density was stronger reflected times where working people had a higher standard of living.”
Rabbi Elisa Goldberg from Kol Tzedek opened the second day of the convention with a message representing both the union and Jewish community in terms of the upcoming Passover holiday.
The same idea of self-understanding and standing up for equal rights applies today, because, she added, “there are still places where people live [like] in Egypt,” without equal rights.
And just like the Israelites found courage and strength to believe in bettering the future, Goldberg said we, too, should fight for safe and reasonable working conditions and a living wage.
“We are united in our vision for justice and equality,” she said. The Jews fighting for their rights in the Passover story were “perhaps the world’s first organized labor movement. As a group, denied both dignity and power, [they] rose up against the forces that sought to control their lives and to own their own labor.”
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