“Choice” was the word of the day at the AFL-CIO National Summit on Raising Wages, held January 7 in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol at Washington, D.C.’s Gallaudet University.
From keynote speakers to panelists, almost everyone said the income stagnation that has beset working-class and middle-class families for the last 35 years has been a choice by many businesses and not a given dictated by economics.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka declared people are working harder but continue to slip backwards.
“Workers don’t need to hear more about income inequality, workers need more income,” Trumka boomed to the approximately 300 in attendance, including the MTD executive secretary-treasurer and three executive board members. “Workers are saying enough!”
After calling for everyone to “make a living wage,” he announced similar forums will be held during 2015 in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, the first four states to hold either a presidential primary or caucus in 2016. In addition, the AFL-CIO will be launching local campaigns in seven cities [Atlanta, Columbus (OH), Minneapolis, Philadelphia, St. Louis, San Diego and Washington] to increase wages for workers.
According to Trumka, these efforts will hold local elected and civic officials accountable for their actions toward workers.
Adding her voice to need for action was U.S. Senator Elizabeth (D-MA), who stated “the game is rigged against” working families because of the choices made by elected officials and businesses since 1980.
Warren recalled her own life story when her mother found a minimum wage job at Sears to take care of the family after her father’s heart attack. She said such a minimum wage job today would not come close to meeting a family’s needs.
“We need an economy where everyone does great,” Warren asserted. “I believe in these three words: Made in America!”
The senator said Congress needs to change its focus from protecting Wall Street and big business to rebuilding the country’s infrastructure and education systems which will provide decent-paying jobs that will boost communities.
Showing support from the White House was Labor Secretary Thomas Perez.
He said businesses have made choices between providing jobs with decent wages and benefits versus low wages and better quarterly profits.
“Because you blow out your neighbor’s candle doesn’t make yours shine brighter,” Perez told the gathering. He said people should work together to help each other rather than take away.
Perez stated the Obama administration will continue to do what it can through executive actions and legislation to make sure all people benefit from an improving economy.