Pittsburgh feels the bern

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Bernie Sanders held a rally in Pittsburgh Thursday morning at the David Lawrence Convention Center downtown. Kate Koenig | Visual Editor

By Dale Shoemaker and Kate Koenig / Pitt News Staff

Though thousands in Pittsburgh have long felt the Bern, the presidential candidate made his first official stop in the city Thursday morning.

At a press conference and rally at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Bernie Sanders, the democratic senator from Vermont, said he would abolish the Trans-Pacific Partnership, support labor unions and push for student debt reform to a crowd of about 10,000 students and residents.

Though the stop was Sanders’ first in Pittsburgh, students and other supporters have hosted rallies and “chalk the block” events since August. At the rally, Sanders championed increasing minimum wage and focusing on his goals of eliminating student debt. Last week, both Sanders and rival Hillary Clinton opened up campaign offices in Pittsburgh, offically putting down roots.

“We should not be punishing people for getting an education, we should be rewarding them,” Sanders said.

Sanders’ call for a higher minimum wage came just two days after UPMC, the Pittsburgh region’s largest employer, announced it would raise minimum hourly pay for all workers by 2021.

Sanders opened the rally discussing Wall Street, lambasting rival Hillary Clinton’s speaking fees for events on Wall Street and her failure to release the transcripts of those talks. In response, Sanders said he would release his own transcripts and threw his empty hands to the crowd, which cheered and applauded thunderously. He said to the crowd he didn’t understand why Wall Street wouldn’t want to hear him speak to them.

The rally was filled with rambunctious responses to his comments about healthcare, education, reproductive rights and the environment. The crowd called out with “boos” when he mentioned the Republicans, restrictions on women’s health care and the billionaire class.

Kate Koenig | Visual Editor
Kate Koenig | Visual Editor

To a crowd that was largely made up of young supporters, Sanders said he understood the struggles millennials face as the price of college rises while the financial reward doesn’t always equal in size.

“These young people are asking, ‘Why is it after we did what we’re supposed to do — we went out and got a good education — why are we $50,000 to $70,000 in debt?’” Sanders said.

But alongside the United Steelworkers union at the press conference before the rally, Sanders appealed to blue-collar workers as well.

“The issues folks are talking about here are issues I’ve been dealing with my whole life,” Sanders said. “When you talk about the $15 per hour minimum wage, who do you think created that movement? It was a trade union movement. It didn’t happen by accident.”

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