By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — A few hundred Bernie Sanders supports filled the United Auto Workers Local 600 Feb. 15 to hear the democratic presidential candidate speak as the road to election day begins to heat up.
The senator from Vermont touched on a variety of subjects and issues facing the country now and in the future during his speech.
The first topic addressed was the UAW and trade unions, praising their work to fight for the employees on a daily basis.
Highlights from the speech included a new trade policy, affordable health care, increased minimum wage, equal pay for women, tuition-free college education, loan refinancing and Wall Street tax reform.
“We need to make America great again,” Sanders said. “I believe leadership is about standing up for something when it’s not popular.”
First, Sanders addressed how the current trade agreements have affected the middle class and manufacturing industry.
“The middle class is disappearing,” he said. “People are working longer hours for lower wages and even two or three jobs to make ends met.”
He also emphasized the importance of bringing factory jobs from overseas back to America and have corporate companies invest in manufacturing.
“When you see ads on TV, companies want you to buy their products,” Sanders said. “Well, it’s time they start making those products in the United States.”
As Sanders spoke, a woman held up an “Occupy Flint” sign with the hopes he would speak on the current water crisis. He said that that same morning he met with seven families who told him their stories.
“One mother spoke to me about her daughter who went from a straight A student to becoming disabled,” Sanders said. “I left the meeting thinking, ‘What country am I living in? Is this the United States of America?’”
During the rally, Sanders focused on issues facing youth, including employment, saying that after high school, 17- to 20-year-olds are having a difficult time finding jobs.
“High youth unemployment is connected to this country having more people in jail than any other country,” he said. “We spend $800 billion a year for the 2.2 million people currently in jail.”
Staying on the topic, Sanders said he wants to make college and universities tuition-free for students, especially those who don’t see it as an option.
“Just because a student’s parents dropped out of school and don’t have the money for their children to attend, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t,” he said. “Everyone should have access to higher education regardless of their family’s income.”
Student loan refinancing and debt was also another hot topic related to education.
“Getting an education is not a crime, and students shouldn’t be punished for it,” Sanders said. “A great nation should encourage people to get as much of an education as they can.”
Since its passing into federal law, ObamaCare has helped 17 million citizens gain health insurance, Sanders stated.
“Health care is a right, not a privilege,” he said. “We have to get health care to the 29 million who are still uninsured or underinsured.”
With the recent police incidents across the country, and even in Dearborn, Sanders said he plans to implement reform and focus on creating diversity within the departments.
Sanders acknowledged his past success in Iowa and New Hampshire, and said he is confident he can succeed in Michigan as well.
“I absolutely believe that if we stand together, if we bring our friends and neighbors and family out to vote here in Michigan we are going to win in Michigan,” he said.
The Michigan presidential primary election is March 8.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)