COOPERSVILLE, Mich.-- Presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., addressed service trade union members on Saturday, echoing his 2016 platform of growing the middle class and advocating for his signature Medicare-for-all plan.
The crowd at UA Local 174 was a friendly one; democratic voters in Ottawa County strongly favored Sanders over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primary. This time, he's setting his sights past the primary, already focusing on defeating President Trump.
“I am going to do everything I can to make sure Donald Trump is not reelected president of the United States," Sanders told the crowd.
After launching attacks on the president's record, Sanders said unions would thrive under a Sanders presidency.
“We will use the power of the federal government to say to large, profitable corporations, treat your workers with respect," Sanders said. "Treat them with dignity.”
Sanders is behind the Workplace Democracy Act, which says is 50 percent of workers in a unit agree they want to be part of a union, there will be a union. It includes language that would inflict penalties if companies refuse to negotiate contracts in good faith. The legislation also aims to eliminate right-to-work laws in 27 states, including Michigan.
“He speaks for average, working people," voter Barbara Howard tells FOX 17.
Howard works in a nursing home and says Sanders' Medicare-for-all plan has earned Sanders her vote.
“I’m fortunate. I’m on Medicare now. That’s the real thing," Howard says. "I just turned 65 last October and the coverage I had before was really not coverage. I paid $250 a month premium and I had a $6,000 deductible, so when would I use that coverage?”
Howard supported Sanders in 2016 and plans to vote for him again but is worried about the 17 other democratic candidates standing in his way.
“My question is, will he be able to get the nomination," Howard says. "That’s my concern, whether the Democratic Party will eventually embrace him.”
Her concern is shared among other Sanders supporters at Saturday's event, including Dooley Hord, a retired welder.
“I voted for Bernie four years ago and I’ll probably vote for him again if he comes through the campaign," Hord says. "This campaign, it’s gonna be tough.”
Congressman Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, was quick to attack the senator's signature single-payer healthcare plan. He issued the following statement to FOX 17:
"While Senator Sanders’ socialist rhetoric may be enticing to some, in reality his policies spell trouble for Michigan residents. Sanders’ Medicare for All proposal would strip 5.5 million Michiganders of their private health insurance, cost taxpayers a whopping $32 trillion, and limit health care choices while increasing wait times for patients to see doctors. This is precisely the wrong approach."
Sanders defends the cost of a Medicare-for-All system, saying the average American would save money on healthcare. His plan to pay for it includes raising income and estate taxes on the wealthy and eliminating certain tax deductions for the rich and large corporations.
However, some democrats are looking for middle ground, like Doug Booth. He recently announced he's running for Michigan's 3rd Congressional District, currently represented by Justin Amash, R-Grand Rapids.
“Right now the debate around healthcare is one extreme or the other," Booth tells FOX 17. "And we need more of that discussion around the transition and really getting to a better system for us all.”
After his appearance in Coopersville, Sanders held a rally in Warren.
On Monday, Sanders will be on Fox News for a town hall in Bethlehem, Pa.