Clinton courts union support in Philadelphia

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Hillary Clinton speaks at AFL-CIO convention in Philadelphia. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Hillary Clinton speaks at AFL-CIO convention in Philadelphia. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Seeming energized after losing to rival Bernie Sanders in Wisconsin’s primary, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton spoke to a friendly crowd of organized labor in Philadelphia Wednesday morning.

Unions have been some of her strongest supporters. Speaking to hundreds of workers at the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO’s annual convention, Clinton touched on several issues important to them, including raising the minimum wage, boosting manufacturing jobs and rejecting trade deals that could hurt workers.

Clinton also made a promise. “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,” she said. 

She also took a moment to criticize Sanders’ ability to keep his campaign promises, while noting the two candidates also share many views about income inequality. 

“But Sen. Sanders and I have some real differences about how we would go about achieving our goals as president,” she said. “And, like a lot of people, I am concerned that some of his ideas just won’t work because the numbers don’t add up. Others won’t even pass Congress or they rely on Republican governors suddenly having a conversion experience and becoming progressives.”

Sanders will have his turn speaking to the AFL-CIO convention Thursday. 

The state chapter has not endorsed a presidential candidate yet, and the national federation of unions has opted to stay neutral in the primary races so far.

Before Clinton took the stage, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, called for unity. The AFT has endorsed Clinton, but Weingarten said she would tell her members to support Sanders should he become the nominee at the Democratic National Convention in Philadephia this summer.

“And I’m asking every member of this audience, every brother and sister, to do the same because the stakes, the stakes are too high this time to play any kind of protest vote game,” she said. 

Following the speech, many union workers dismissed the notion of Sanders as nominee.

Clinton “has the track record to prove that she can get the job done in Washington,” said Elizabeth Davis, a member of SIEU Local 668 in Delaware County said of Clinton. “She’s been there.”

Carl Ramich, a retired member of the United Steelworkers Local 6996 and Sanders supporter, appeared to be in the minority. 

“She told us everything we wanted to hear, but we really know her past,” said Ramich, who was wearing a “Bernie” sweat shirt.

Ramich said he doubts either candidate would be able to keep all of his or her campaign promises.

“The thing is Bernie may be able to get a little bit more than her with her taking her money off Wall Street and healthcare people,” he said. “She’s too embedded.”

With 210 delegates up for grabs in the primary on April 26, Clinton and Sanders are holding other campaign events in Pennsylvania. Sanders will hold a rally at Temple University Wednesday evening. 

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