April 1, 2016
By Joe Maniscalco
Bronx, NY – Working men and women turning out for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ thunderous rally in the South Bronx on Thursday night, cheered the Vermont senator and Brooklyn native as a “man of the people” while dismissing rival Hillary Clinton as “untrustworthy.”
“Bernie’s core values align with a lot of working people — especially in unions,” TWU Local 100 train operator Derek Watt said. “We all want a decent wage that we can live on. We don’t want to see our healthcare benefits cut. We want education for our children in a way that’s either affordable or free. Bernie really embodies the working class in this country and that’s why a lot of my other members are supporting him, too.”
Thousands of people waited upwards of three hours to attend the rally inside held inside St. Mary’s Park on East 143rd Street.
Zahra Brown a staffer at the Metropolitan Opera and 32BJ member, regretted her union’s official endorsement of Clinton, and called Sanders a unique figure with an impressive voting record on labor issues and the environment.
“It's a very big union and we’re a very little part of it where I work,” Brown said. “I’m very grateful for their protection. However, they’re not necessarily able to go with our preferences on every issue. I wish they had gone with Bernie.”
New York State Nurses Association member Mary Fitzgerald also drew a sharp distinction between the two Democratic candidates for president.
Bernie wants a living wage that can actually lift people out of poverty,” Fitzgerald said. “Hillary wants $12 an hour — maybe. She is definitely in the pockets of big business and the pharmaceutical companies. Bernie’s not like that, he wants to see healthcare for all.
Universal healthcare was a big concern for many at Thursday night’s rally, which also saw star-studded endorsements from actress Rosario Dawson, filmmaker Spike Lee and rapper Residente.
“The biggest reason why I’m supporting Bernie is because I’m a big advocate for universal healthcare,” FDNY Paramedic
Steve Hornbrook said. “I see so many people who don’t have insurance or who are under-insured. We still take care of patients that call 911, but the reimbursement isn’t there and people are stuck with huge bills. And that’s the number one reason for bankruptcy in the United States.”
Bellevue Hospital nurse Lilia Marquez also celebrated Sanders’ support for universal healthcare.
“I like Bernie’s integrity and his consistency,” Marquez said. “He cares for all Americans and he cannot be bought. A lot more people are now insured with Obamacare, but single-payer would save a lot of dollars, which we can then use for other agendas like child education and poverty.”
Sanders was also the clear choice of Brooklyn steamfitter Alfredo Vega.
“For me, Sanders is better than Hillary,” Vega said. “He’s for the middle class. And that’s what we need. We need change. [President] Obama tried to do his best. But Bernie can pick up where Obama left off. We’ve had enough of the Clintons already.”
Serafin Resto, a retired NYPD detective with 11 years on the force said he’s still trying to decide who to support for president and attended the rally to “pick people’s brains.”
“I'm here to pick people's brains," Resto said. "But not too many [presidential candidates] come over here. You have to respect that in and of itself.”
Currently unemployed, Israel Martinez said that, in his view, "Sanders is more straightforward than Hillary Clinton."
“To me, Hillary Clinton is one of the biggest liars in politics,” Martinez said.
Westchester County clinical therapist Tasha Young also said Sanders “represents the people more than Hillary Clinton.”
“I think she represents the corporations and she’s proven that to us time and time again,” Young said. “I really think we
need a candidate who’s willing to listen to people.”
Sanders last swept Clinton in Washington, Hawaii and Alaska primary races — but still needs to win big in his hometown of New York on April 19.
“If we win here in New York, we are going to the White House,” Sanders predicted.
During a wide-ranging hour-long speech that included everything from universal healthcare to climate change, Sanders also called for major new investments in inner cities throughout the United States and a $15 an hour federal minimum wage.
“When we rebuild our housing stock; when we build affordable housing; when we rebuild our roads and bridges and water systems — we create millions of good paying jobs,” Sanders said.
The next Democratic primary race is next Tuesday in Wisconsin, where polls show Sanders leading Clinton.
“People all over this coutnry are looking around and saying establishment politics and establishment economics, the same-old, same-old, is not working," Sanders said. "Real change happens when millions of people look around and say the status quo is unacceptable; the exploitation of workers is unacceptable; racism is unacceptable; sexism is unacceptable; homophobia in unacceptable. We can do better."