HELL’S KITCHEN — A day after her Super Tuesday victory, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton set out to address wage issues and what she referred to as the “finger-pointing and insulting” that has marked the Republican primary race.
In front of a crowd of vocal supporters at the Javits Center on Wednesday evening, Clinton spoke out in support of raising the federal minimum wage and ending the tipped minimum wage, while promising not to raise taxes on the middle class.
“We set this event for the day after Super Tuesday, and boy am I glad it worked out so well,” she said. “Yesterday was one for the history books.”
“People on every corner of the country came out to support the future we’re building together, and we couldn’t have done it without labor.”
With much of the crowd made up of union members from groups such as 1199SEIU health care workers union and the Laborers' International Union of North America, Clinton took the opportunity to mention her familial ties to the labor force.
While her grandfather operated a loom in a Pennsylvania factory, her father ran his own fabric shop; her mother, meanwhile, worked as a maid in high school to support herself.
“They made sacrifices for me, and I will never forget that, so my respect for hardworking men and women runs deep,” she said. “I‘ve always believed that when unions are strong, families are strong, and America is strong.”
Also in the audience at the convention center were Gov. Andrew Cuomo, city officials including Public Advocate Letitia James and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who spoke in support of the former U.S. secretary of state prior to her speech.
Clinton, who has advocated for raising the federal minimum wage to $12, praised Cuomo’s fight to raise the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour, and called out America as the “only industrialized country in the world that requires tipped workers to take home their income in tips, instead of wages.”
“As long as you are fighting for working families in America, I will be in the trenches fighting alongside, you,” she said to cheers from the audience. “And I want you to know this too — labor will always have a seat at the table when I’m in the White House.”
She also claimed to be the only candidate on either side of the race who had vowed to raise incomes without raising middle class taxes.
After touching on education issues and her plans to reduce student debt and make college more affordable, the candidate’s speech seemed to target the recent barbs Republican presidential hopefuls Marco Rubio and Donald Trump have traded, ranging from insults about hand size to comments about sweating during speeches.
“Now, maybe some people think this is entertaining, but I tell you this is serious business,” Clinton said.
“It really matters when you’re running for president what you say, and boy does it matter when you are the president, about what you say, and how the rest of the world hears you,” she added.
She reiterated a sentiment she has focused on in her speeches in the past few weeks, calling for “more love and kindness” in the country.
“It’s always easier to tear people down than to build people up,” she said. “I want us to be a country where we are reaching out to one another again, where we are showing respect for each other.”
After the speech, Clinton was joined onstage by the governor and the mayor, as well as Comptroller Scott Stringer, James and Mark-Viverito.
Several union members in the audience expressed support for the candidate after she spoke.
“She is supporting working families. We support her 100 percent,” said 38-year-old Leonardo Naranjo, a member of LIUNA Local 78.
A member of 1199SEIU who identified herself as Smiley Smile said she could feel “the good spirit” in the Javits Center.
“I’ve got mad love for [Clinton’s] husband, and I learned to love her through him,” said Smile, 50. “I believe in her — not because I’m a woman, but because it’s her turn.”
“She knows the game,” she added.
Correction: This article originally stated Hillary Clinton called for raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. She has advocated for raising it to $12 an hour, while supporting Gov. Cuomo's push to raise the state's minimum wage to $15.