Washington, D.C. – Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), along with Progressive Caucus members Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) released the following statements in support of workers striking today across the country for a living wage and collective bargaining rights.
“In the most prosperous nation on earth, the fact that people willing to work full time are not afforded the dignity of a livable wage is completely unacceptable,” Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva said. “American taxpayers should not have to subsidize highly profitable corporations who refuse to pay employees enough to stay off of public assistance. We must recognize that growing out of the recession takes more than jobs – it takes income. It takes American workers having enough in their pockets to put food on their table, clothes on their back, and revenue back into our economy.”
“Too many hardworking fast food workers don’t make enough to live on while the company executives pocket $9,200 an hour,” Rep. Keith Ellison said. “Even after a year and a half of organizing, workers are continuing to march until they get a wage increase and the right to organize. States and cities around the country are standing with working families by increasing wages and Congress should follow their lead by raising the federal minimum wage now.”
“The federal minimum wage of $7.25 is a starvation wage,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders. “I applaud the fast-food workers all across the country who are striking today to raise the minimum wage to a living wage. Nobody who works 40 hours a week should be living in poverty.”
“When a growing number of workers are paid so little, it slows down the economy for everybody,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee. “When workers cannot afford basics — like groceries, rent, or transportation — that reduces their purchasing power in their neighborhoods. Many workers are paid so little they qualify for food stamps and other public assistance. That is taxpayers’ money that should be going to schools, roads, bridges, and other priorities. Higher pay will put more purchasing power into the hands of workers, so they can put more money back into their community, boost the economy, and create more good jobs.”
“The incomes of workers have continued to decline, year after year, in the richest nation in the history of the world. We know the reason – increases in wealth have been diverted to investors, even as the women and men whose labor allows our economy to function must work harder each year for less and less,” Rep. Yvette Clarke said. “We share a responsibility to build an economy that rewards work, not inherited wealth, by mandating a living wage and investing in the development of each individual person. We have the ability to end income inequality and one of the ways that we can do that is by allowing all workers to unionize. Unions will help workers fight for a living wage; fight for paid sick leave; and fight for solid pensions. We need only the resolve to act.”
“Today, I stand with the fast food workers and federal contract employees that are peacefully demanding a living wage and the right to collectively bargain. We need to turn up the street heat for a real living wage,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “Instead of taxpayers subsidizing low-wage workers, companies need to pay a living wage and respect the right to collective bargaining. When families are able to earn more money and have a seat at the table, our economy grows.”
“There is no need to impoverish workers for the benefit of shareholders and CEOs,” said Rep. Alan Grayson. “Everyone who works full-time should make enough money to survive.”
“These rallies are working – the President, the Department of Labor, and the federal contractors who employ these low-wage workers have been listening,” said Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. “Raising the minimum wage and incentivizing fair labor practices for federal contractors is the next logical step. These workers, who have the least, and the most to lose, have taken the lead. It’s time for federal contractors to follow.”
The Progressive Caucus has been advocating for higher wages and workers’ right to organize for the past year. Specifically, the CPC has sent letters to the President asking him to sign a Good Jobs Executive Order and to raise the minimum wage for federal contract workers. Just last month, the CPC sent another letter to the President asking him to finish the job he started by rewarding good contractors and guaranteeing workers’ rights to collectively bargain through a Model Employer Executive Order.