DETROIT— Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton returned to Detroit Monday where she addressed thousands at a Service Employees International Union convention at the Cobo Center. During her remarks she issued biting criticism of presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump in addition to discussing reforms to minimum wage and child care.
The SEIU, a union headquartered in Washington D.C., has a membership of over 1.9 million workers spanning the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada. Membership is comprised of mostly health care workers — including home care, nursing home and hospital employees. Many other members occupy public service or property management positions, including custodial, security and food service jobs.
SEIU is also a major force of support for such labor reforms as the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act, increased minimum wage laws and wage increases for food workers — many of which are supported by Clinton’s campaign.
During her remarks, Clinton reaffirmed her support for the SEIU and all its members, thanking them for their continued support for her campaign.
The SEIU officially endorses Clinton; however, in the state of Michigan — which has traditionally voted for Democratic candidates — this year the contest is more unpredictable with the majority of current polls showing Clinton defeating presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump by several points, but several showing a tie or virtual tie in the state, according to RealClearPolitics.
Clinton currently plans an early focus on Rust Belt states, including Michigan, where there are an abundance of white, working class voters — a group from which Trump has received a large portion of his support. A recent CBS/New York Times poll showed him leading with white voters without a college degree by 20 points over Clinton.
The Clinton campaign has also announced a shift in attention to the general election, noted through her attacks on Trump during her remarks.
Clinton notably attacked Trump's business record, suggesting his accomplishments are not as grand as he makes them out to be.
“He could bankrupt America like he’s bankrupted his companies,” Clinton said. “I mean, ask yourself: How can anybody lose money running a casino? Really.”
Clinton also spoke out against Trump’s stances on immigration, in which he has stated he plans to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Clinton emphasized the human angle of undocumented immigrants through the image of normal families being torn apart through such actions.
“What kind of country would we be if we let Donald Trump rip our families apart?” Clinton asked.
Clinton additionally brought attention to the issue of minimum wage, reaffirming her support for raising the number to $15 per hour, which has been a point of contention between Clinton and her rival in the Democratic contest, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D–Vt.). Unlike Sanders, Clinton initially favored a $12 minimum wage.
During a debate in April, Clinton amended her stance, stating she would sign a federal $15 minimum wage bill if it appeared before her as president, to which Sanders reacted with surprise.
Clinton hammered Trump for his statements suggesting that minimum wage be abolished — which he has recently rebutted — and Trump’s economic policies in general, saying they would be a disaster for working-class Americans.
“We aren’t talking about any ordinary anti-union, anti-worker Republican,” she said. “Many Republicans themselves say Donald Trump is a disaster waiting to happen. What little we know of his economic policies would be running up our debt, starting trade wars, letting Wall Street run wild — all of that would cause another crash and devastate working families and our country.”
Despite this shift in focus to the general election, Clinton departed Detroit for California, where she will hold events in preparation for the state’s June 7 primary.
Clinton did offer a short mention of Sanders, however, calling for him to unify the party, repeating that she and Sanders shared positions on many key issues including minimum wage and campaign finance reform.
“I applaud Sen. Sanders and his supporters for challenging us,” she said. “(But) we are going to unify the Democratic party and stop Donald Trump.”
The majority of Clinton’s remarks appeared to be appealing to the thousands of SEIU workers and representatives in attendance, including her support for child care reform and increased accessibility.
“You know that in many states child care is more expensive than rent — it’s more expensive even than college tuition,” Clinton said. “That puts parents in an impossible position.”
According to Clinton, in some states two minimum-wage-earning parents must spend roughly 20 percent of their income on childcare and single parents must allocate 40 percent.
“That is way too high,” Clinton said, challenging those in attendance to join her in pushing for child care reform that lowers its financial burden, ideally tapping into no more than 10 percent of a parent’s wage.
Clinton additionally affirmed her support for an increase in pay for child care providers and early educators on a state and local level, noting that many SEIU members in the audience must sacrifice the care of their own children to work for others in need of care, such as home health aides and hospital employees.
“This is crazy,” Clinton said. “There’s nothing more important than our children, and when I sat down with SEIU members in Chicago I heard one heartbreaking story after another from parents who can’t afford to give their own children the care that they give other people’s kids every day.”