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Americans United For Change & Progressive States Network Spotlight Momentum to "Give America A Raise" Building In The States

 


 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 7, 2014

CONTACTS: 
Jeremy Funk, Americans United For Change, 202-470-5878
Kate Oh, Progressive States Network, 202-905-2835

Americans United For Change & Progressive States Network Spotlight
Momentum to "Give America A Raise" Building In The States

*CLICK HERE to Listen to Recording of Today’s Press Call

Washington, DC– Fresh off a 3,500 mile, 11-state "Give America A Raise" Bus Tour that gained widespread local media attention and put Republicans in Congress on notice to represent the clear majority of Americans and raise the minimum wage to $10.10, Americans United For Change was joined today by leading state legislators working with Progressive States Network, a national organization that empowers state legislators to advance progressive solutions, to announce a ‘National Week of Action for Real Prosperity Across America’ starting today.  Visit: http://progressivestates.org/weekofaction

During the Week of Action sponsored by PSN, 45 state legislators in 20 states are spearheading events and activities that lift up a shared vision for America: an economy that works for everyone and a fair shot for all. Given the importance of the minimum wage issue to working families, participating legislators include those taking the Minimum Wage Challenge in Michigan, Florida, Colorado, and Connecticut. For a week, they are living on poverty wages and challenging other lawmakers to support a higher minimum wage that rewards hard work and reflects the idea that Americans who work full-time should be able to live in dignity, not in poverty. The Week of Action comes at a time when momentum is building nationally and within states on a number of priorities important to everyday Americans, especially raising the floor of wages. Against the backdrop of soaring income inequality and declining opportunity for too many, the American people are demanding leaders who fight for a real prosperity responding to our nation’s needs in the new century. As the Week of Action will show, progressive lawmakers across the states are answering the call.

Nebraska State Senator Jeremy Nordquist: “As representatives of the public, we know that our districts, our constituents cannot wait for Congress to put partisanship aside and do the right thing for our economy and our working families.  States are not sitting on the sideline and waiting for Congress to act on the minimum wage. In this country, you should not have to live in poverty if you work a full-time job.  Working hard and taking care of your loved ones are certainly Nebraska values, but they're also American values. Too many workers are not getting ahead, and more and more are falling behind.  I see it every day in my district and I know my legislative colleagues see it in theirs.  Even in a conservative state like Nebraska, we are seeing great public support for raising the minimum wage.”

Florida State Senator Dwight Bullard: "This week I will be participating in the Minimum Wage Challenge to shed light on the effects of poverty wages and wage suppression faced by far too many of our neighbors. A few of my colleagues and I will live this week on the average weekly budget of a low wage employee. We embark on this journey to challenge our fellow lawmakers to ‘Do something!’ to make life easier for America’s working families. We challenge them to make real prosperity a priority."

Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, and Author of A Nun on the Bus: How All of Us Can Create Hope, Change, and Community: As a person of faith I know that paying a living wage is an issue of justice. All workers who work full time should be able to support their families without having to use the poverty safety net. But this isn’t just a matter of faith, it is also a reality of economics. Giving a just salary to those who work hard every day is good for our nation and good for our economy. Give America a raise so that all hardworking people can support their families.”

Brooke Drake, West Virginia Citizen Action Group, and former waitress in Charleston, WV: “My last employer paid me $2.13 per hour to serve food with a smile on my face. My total salary was usually a little higher than minimum wage, being more based on the varying tips I’d be granted if I met the unspoken criteria each customer set forth, suppressing your humanity to play a role in the business meetings that use our services. The hardship of low wage work comes when that person clocks out. Even with no children, no car payment, and splitting my bills with another undervalued citizen, I still failed to keep my utilities connected.  While the cost of living in WV is below the national average, it is increasing every day in the form of higher energy costs, transportation limitations, and skyrocketing tuition rates. The day-to-day struggle of getting to work on the chance of making enough to pay our bills is not the American Dream. Tax payers should not have to be recipients of tax funded social programs nor should a child wondering why their parent works so much should never have to wonder why their belly is still empty. How can you expect people to become skilled workers when they spend their time trying to survive in what we call a first world country?  Every dollar spent from a food stamp card costs tax payers $1.05. Let’s cut out the middle man, stop giving raises to CEOs, and start to pay each individual for an honest day’s work. When people are provided with the opportunity to succeed, they develop an interest in doing so. Showing the next generation that working hard will fail to compensate their basic needs is not an approved method for refining the work force. Providing an increase in pay to the group of workers who consistently spend their earnings within the local area will improve their lives, that of their children, and that of every self-respecting tax payer.  On behalf of Amy, Angie, Ashley and Anna- all mothers earning too little to pay their own tuition. On behalf of JB, David, Ron, and Richard- all capable men struggling to provide for their families. I ask you to bring back the American Dream- the opportunity for success. Bring back- self-respect, self-esteem, personal value, the light at the end of the tunnel. Bring back hope, not just for the privileged or enlightened, but all the adults and children who need clarity in understanding the fruits of a day’s work.”

Brad Woodhouse, President, Americans United For Change, the group behind the ‘Give America a Raise’ Bus Tour, announced the bus would be hitting the road again in the coming weeks, details to be announced at a later date:“The national minimum wage has stayed the same since 2009, but what hasn’t is the price of food, gas, utilities, and basic necessities under inflation, making it nearly impossible to get by anywhere in America on $7.25 an hour or $15,000 a year. This has given rise to more and more Americans working full time yet still living in poverty. How wrong is that?  Giving these Americans a raise is something so obvious to most of us, so fundamentally decent and so clearly in line with what the American people want that it’s hard to believe we even have to do a bus tour and Week of Action like this around it to convince Republicans it’s the right thing to do.  But clearly we do. Just last week, the Tea Party-beholden House Republicans rejected Democratic efforts to bring the Harkin-Miller $10.10 bill to the floor.  They’re only interested in voting for minimum taxes for millionaires and huge corporations that outsource jobs.   That’s obvious from the same old Paul Ryan budget they just rolled out that slashes taxes for the likes of the Koch Brothers and maintains billions of dollars in subsidies for Big Oil at the same time it slashes food stamps for the most vulnerable.  Speaking of which, a recent report found that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would cut down federal food stamp spending by $46 billion over the next 10 years – and lift millions of people out of poverty.  But the Harkin-Miller bills is not just an anti-poverty and pro-fiscal responsibility bill, it’s also a pro-jobs bill.  Millions of people with more money to spend on goods and services means businesses will need to hire more workers to meet the demand.  Decades’ worth ofresearch done after previous minimum wage increases shows nothing but net economic benefits as a result, which is why so many successful business leaders and over 600 economists including seven Nobel Laureates are calling on Congress to raise it again now.”

“On the road, we met small business owners on the forefront of this movement who didn’t wait for Congress to act – who are proving Republican rhetoric wrong: that you can pay your workers a fair wage and still be successful,” added Woodhouse.  “One small business owner talked about how paying her contractors more meant that they would come to work with purpose and that she could hold them to a higher standard. It’s common sense, she said: the current minimum wage will get you minimum work.  Higher minimum wage gets you less turnover and more productivity.”

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