Sanders Talks Trade, Jobs in 'Burgh; More Than 8,000 Bernie Sanders Supporters Packed an Exhibit Hall at Pittsburgh's David L. Lawrence Convention Center on Thursday to Hear the Insurgent Presidential Candidate Promise to Fight Free-Trade Agreements, Wall Street, Racism, Sexism and Homophobia Should He Win the White House. [Derived Headline]

By Zito, Salena; Fontaine, Tom | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

Sanders Talks Trade, Jobs in 'Burgh; More Than 8,000 Bernie Sanders Supporters Packed an Exhibit Hall at Pittsburgh's David L. Lawrence Convention Center on Thursday to Hear the Insurgent Presidential Candidate Promise to Fight Free-Trade Agreements, Wall Street, Racism, Sexism and Homophobia Should He Win the White House. [Derived Headline]


Zito, Salena, Fontaine, Tom, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


More than 8,000 Bernie Sanders supporters packed an exhibit hall at Pittsburgh's David L. Lawrence Convention Center on Thursday to hear the insurgent presidential candidate promise to fight free-trade agreements, Wall Street, racism, sexism and homophobia should he win the White House.

Sanders, a gray-haired senator from Vermont who describes himself as a democratic socialist, delivered a rousing hourlong speech in which he tried to differentiate himself from his opponent, Hillary Clinton. Once considered the Democrats' presumptive nominee, former Secretary of State Clinton finds herself in a tightening battle with Sanders.

Sanders, 74, has won five of the past six primary election contests and surged from far behind to lead in the polls in Wisconsin, which will hold its primary Tuesday.

"When we began our campaign 11 months ago, our campaign was considered to be 'fringe,' " Sanders said. "Well, a lot has changed in 11 months."

Sanders made few direct references to Pittsburgh in his speech, but it appeared to be tailored for a local audience. He hammered away on free-trade agreements that resulted in thousands of local jobs going elsewhere. Deals in his crosshairs included the North American Free Trade Agreement, normalized trade relations with China and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.

"I have opposed from day one in Congress every one of these disastrous trade agreements. Secretary Clinton has supported virtually every one of these disastrous trade agreements," Sanders said.

Sanders pointed to Pennsylvania employment casualties, including 560 jobs lost in Westmoreland County when Sony closed its last American TV-making factory in 2008; 300 jobs lost at a York Peppermint Pattie factory in Reading in 2009; 950 jobs lost at a General Electric locomotive plant in Erie in 2013; and a combined 600 jobs lost last year in Western Pennsylvania when Allegheny Technologies closed two steel plants.

Most of those jobs went to China and Mexico, he said.

"When we talk about the shrinking middle class and poverty, we have to talk about our disastrous trade agreements," Sanders said. "Trade policy cannot be a policy in which American workers are forced to compete with people making pennies an hour."

Sanders railed against drug companies earning runaway profits selling medications that many people can't afford to take, but he did not rail against fracking, a cornerstone in many of his stump speeches. He vowed to propose programs for universal health care, free college education, and paid family and medical leave.

In a news conference before the rally, Sanders said a decision by the region's biggest corporate giant, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center health system, to raise the starting minimum wage for many workers to $15 an hour within five years was "a step in the right direction. …

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Sanders Talks Trade, Jobs in 'Burgh; More Than 8,000 Bernie Sanders Supporters Packed an Exhibit Hall at Pittsburgh's David L. Lawrence Convention Center on Thursday to Hear the Insurgent Presidential Candidate Promise to Fight Free-Trade Agreements, Wall Street, Racism, Sexism and Homophobia Should He Win the White House. [Derived Headline]
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