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Clinton backs labor, hints at $15 minimum wage

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at the Inaugural Barbara Jordan Gold Medallion at Texas Southern University on June 4, 2015, in Houston, Texas.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at the Inaugural Barbara Jordan Gold Medallion at Texas Southern University on June 4, 2015, in Houston, Texas.
Thomas Shea/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton asserted her support for union rights by calling in to a convention of fast-food workers in Detroit Sunday. She used the event to take a not-so-subtle jab at Republicans who have sought to limit them, and hinted that she might support a $15 minimum wage — the type that her chief rivals for the Democratic nomination back.

"We need you out there leading the fight against those who would rip away Americans' right to organize, to collective bargaining, to fair pay," Clinton told the audience. The Washington Post noted that she used language in her remarks that mirrors that used in the Service Employees International Union's call for a $15 minimum wage.

A Clinton spokesman did not immediately reply to a request for confirmation of whether she intended to endorse the wage floor that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley already support.

Her first paean to organized labor fits with Clinton's early strategy of courting base constituency groups, from African Americans and Latinos to women and the LGBT community. As the New York Times wrote Sunday, and Vox has observed before, she is focused now on energizing Democrats more than reaching out to independents and Republicans.

Clinton has had a fraught relationship with unions, which still bristle at the mention of the North American Free Trade Agreement that her husband enacted as president. Now they are anxiously waiting to hear whether she will support or reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that labor leaders say will hurt American workers.

Clinton, who helped lay the groundwork for the deal as Obama's secretary of state, has steadfastly refused to commit herself to either position until it is finalized.