WASHINGTON – About 100 protesters rallied outside the Capitol Tuesday for legislation supported by labor unions to raise the minimum wage and extend unemployment benefits for all Americans and ensure workplace equality for women.
Seven Democratic lawmakers addressed the crowd at the rally, organized by the American Federation of Government Employees, to push for “prosperity, not austerity.”
“We want an economy that works for all, not just a privileged few,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who specifically promoted equal pay for women, paid sick leave and quality affordable child care.
All of the speeches hit the same notes by the representatives and one senator- America’s workers are some of the most efficient in the world and deserve higher wages and secure retirement.
“We gotta get America out of reverse and put it in forward,” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md. “In unity there is strength, in unity there is effectiveness.”
The Senate will vote on raising the minimum wage sometime in February, Majority Leader Harry Reid announced last month. Last week it failed to pass an unemployment benefits extension by one vote. At the end of January, high-ranking congressional Democrats called for the passage of the 2013 Fair Pay Act, which would make it illegal for employers to discriminate in wages based on sex, race or nationality.
“America deserves a raise,” said Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., echoing the signs carried by many protesters, “and a retirement that is protected!”
Several federal employees from Fort Hood, Texas, joined the crowd specifically to support postal workers. “What affects our postal brothers and sisters affects us all,” said Cheryl Eliano, 56, and suggested cutting corporate tax loopholes rather than public employees’ jobs.
“The narrative is that the private sector can be doing it better,” said Shareef Valentine, 34, an Army veteran who also works at Fort Hood, but it’s not true.
During the Christmas seasion, the postal service delivered all its parcels on time, yet companies like UPS and FedEx got all the credit, he complained.
Valentine also said that many veterans are employed in federal jobs like the postal service. If these jobs keep getting cut, he said, veterans coming out of the military will have nowhere to go.
“Americans are doing more with less workers for less pay,” said Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., “and that is just unfair.”