Bill Clinton is making a big play for the union vote in New York

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Former President Bill Clinton is making a big play for the union vote as the battle heats up between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in New York's presidential primary.

In a Thursday speech in front of a local Service Employees International Union chapter, a few blocks away from Times Square, Bill Clinton struck a populist tone, criticizing shareholders and top management of major companies that do not raise wages for workers.

"The problem is that in private companies, 80 to 90% of the profits are going to shareholders and top management, instead of workers, communities, and even customers, who are being hurt," Clinton said.

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Bill Clinton is making a big play for the union vote in New York

Tim Kaine

The junior Democratic Senator from the swing state of Virginia could be a strategic selection for Hillary. Kaine also served as the governor of Virginia from 2006- 2010.

(Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Elizabeth Warren

The current U.S. Senator from Massachusetts is popular among progressive Democrats, and some even tried to draft her to run for president herself in 2016. 

(Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sherrod Brown

Insiders believe that the senior U.S. Senator from Ohio could help Clinton increase her popularity with working-class voters, a group she has yet to win in a big way so far in primary contests.  

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Cory Booker

The U.S. Senator from New Jersey is both youthful and charismatic and would add racial diversity to a Clinton ticket. 

(Photo by KK Ottesen for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Tom Perez

The current U.S. Secretary of Labor is considered a sleeper pick by many Democrats because he is not well known outside of D.C., but some believe his strength and popularity among union workers and other progressive groups could be an asset to Clinton's ticket. 

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Julian Castro

The former mayor of San Antonio and current U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development has been rumored as a possible running mate for Clinton for months, but in May he said in an interview that the Clinton campaign hasn't talked to him about the role.

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Amy Klobuchar

Insiders confirmed that Clinton is definitely considering a woman as her vice presidential pick, and as U.S. Senator from Minnesota, Klobuchar has a seat Democrats would likely maintain. She's also been described as "by far" the most popular politician in her state. 

 (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

Bernie Sanders

The Independent from Vermont has become Hillary Clinton's primary rival for the Democratic nomination, garnering a surprising amount of support. Bringing Sanders onto the ticket could help to unite both sets of supporters who have been split in Democratic primaries.

(Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

Martin O'Malley

A former 2016 rival of Hillary Clinton, and former Maryland governor, Martin O’Malley could help bring some executive experience, along with a slight youthful boost to the ticket.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Tom Vilsack

The Secretary of Agriculture since 2009, Tom Vilsack also served as the governor of Iowa from 1999 to 2007. Vilsack could bring some governing experience along with swing state influence.  

(BELGIUM - Tags: AGRICULTURE POLITICS BUSINESS)

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper delivers his annual State of the State address to lawmakers and guests, inside the state legislature, in Denver, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. Hickenlooper called upon Republicans and Democrats to return to an era of civility and compromise in his address to the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democrat-led House. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

Evan Bayh 

Evan Bayh could bring a more right leaning brand of politics to the ticket. Bayh previously served as the junior U.S. Senator from Indiana from 1999 to 2011, and also as the 46th Governor of Indiana from 1989 to 1997.  

Joe Biden

While the likelihood of him agreeing to take on the veep job again might be low, Biden's popularity among Democrats would likely boost Clinton's chances. 

(Photo credit MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Bill Clinton

Hillary's husband is technically allowed to serve in the job, and some legal experts even think he'd be able to take office if necessary. Unfortunately for the diehard Clinton supporters, a Clinton-Clinton ticket will probably be a dream that never comes true. 

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

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The former president also repeatedly attempted to draw distinctions between his wife and Sanders. Clinton took a shot at Sanders for his stance on a 2006 immigration-reform effort and cast the Vermont senator's single-payer healthcare plan as costly and unrealistic.

"There's a big difference between talking change and making change," Clinton said.

He continued:

It's interesting that the governor of Vermont — Vermont, the only governor in America that ever had the courage to try to have a single-payer system — he found, just like the experts that it was going to cost twice what he thought it was, and would take half the state's budget.

"He gave it up. And guess who he is supporting for president? Hillary," Clinton said, referring to Gov. Peter Shumlin.

The stop was Clinton's first of a day-long tour of union meeting places, where the former president was expected to deliver similar remarks.

The speech came as the Clintons have made a major push ahead of the New York April 19 primary, where 291 delegates are up for grabs. Hillary Clinton, a former New York senator, also held a Wednesday rally in Harlem.

She further spoke earlier this month in front of a union-heavy audience at the Javits Center, where New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, and several top New York City elected officials also urged their state to give Clinton a big win.

"As long as you are fighting for the rights of the working families of Americans, I will be too," Clinton said at the Javits Center.

Sanders has also attempted to woo unions in his push to win New York.

Two of the senator's major campaign stops in New York took place in front of union-friendly audiences. He addressed a crowd of Communications Workers of America picket line in Manhattan last October, shortly before garnering the union's endorsement. Many of the same union workers packed the auditorium at the senator's major address on the financial industry in New York in January.

But though Clinton has secured the endorsement of major unions in New York, including SEIU and District Council 37, union members have been a natural Sanders constituency, and many union members are backing the senator.

Diana, a New York SEIU member who attended multiple Clinton events, pointed out that a row of union members toward the back of the room who she said were supporting Sanders.

She said she similarly bucked the union's endorsement of President Barack Obama in 2008.

"Even though the union was for Obama, I was for Hillary," Diana recalled.

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