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), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Judy Chu (D-CA), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Mark Pocan (D-WI) released the following statements in support of fast food workers striking today across the country to demand employers raise wages to $15 an hour and allow workers to organize unions without retaliation. 

 

“Today, fast food workers from across the country stand united as they strike for fair compensation, and I am proud to stand by their side,” Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) said.  “We are a nation that believes in the dignity of hard work, but too many Americans with full time jobs still struggle to make ends meet. We must raise the minimum wage and pay workers a living wage to ensure the American Dream remains within reach for all who are willing to work for it.”

 

Thousands of fast food workers will be out in the street today, demanding a living wage and the right to organize,” Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) said. “They’re doing it because they have families to feed and parents to look after. They’re doing it because they have basic needs that can’t be met at $7.25 an hour. They’re standing for the possibility of a better future and an economy that works for all Americans, not just the wealthy few. I’m proud to stand with them.”

 

“The federal minimum wage of $7.25 is a starvation wage,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). “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."

 

“In recent years, the disparity in income and wealth between very rich and everyone else has continued to increase,” Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) said. “Today, for example, the richest one percent of Americans own more than one-third of our wealth. Yet there are also millions of Americans who work full-time but, earning only the minimum wage, cannot afford to support a family or to save for the future. Our economy should reward hard work. We have a responsibility to honor the dignity of work, and the individual dignity of workers. We have a responsibility to enact a living wage.”

 

“It is time for our workers on the front lines to be paid a fair wage. Doing so will help families avoid poverty and help grow our economy. Sixty eight percent of fast food workers are the main wage earners in their families. Women, especially women of color, are disproportionately represented in this group. I support them and their strike today because a job should be a way out of poverty, not a tether to it,” said Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA).

 

“I proudly join the effort to support the fast food workers' Fight for 15. In America, the land of opportunity, no one who works full-time should be struggling to raise a family,” said Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) Increases in minimum wage have not kept pace with the rising costs of basic necessities for the average American family, while income inequality has increased by 23 percent since 2008. If we want to help build real, lasting economic security, the federal minimum wage must be raised to a living wage. At its core, giving America a pay raise is not just about ensuring fair compensation, but also preserving justice and dignity for all workers."

 

“I’m proud to stand with the national movement of fast food workers organizing for $15 an hour. Each and every American worker deserves an honest, living wage for an honest, hard day’s work,” said Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA). “I’m also proud to call Seattle home – the city recently approved a $15 an hour minimum wage.  Seattle’s historic action on raising the wage underscores an essential truth: the 20th century American economy was built by the middle class and the middle class was built by a living wage and the right to organize.  For the American economy to thrive in the 21st century, we must guarantee our workers the wages, benefits and on-the-job protections they deserve.  It’s time to follow Seattle’s lead and raise the wage from coast to coast.”

 

"It’s time to raise the pay of fast food workers and everyone earning a low wage in this country,” said Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI). “Companies should pay their workers fair wages and put more money in the hands of consumers to help strengthen our economy. These companies are super-sizing their profits while their workers are struggling to make ends meet."

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Washington, D.C. – Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), released the following statement in response to degrading remarks Erick Erickson made suggesting fast food workers have failed at life while guest hosting Rush Limbaugh’s radio show:

 

“Fast food workers often work 2 to 3 jobs just to put food on the table and to take care of their families. Erick Erickson is clearly out of touch if he thinks this is something to attack. He ought to interview these workers on his radio show – maybe then he will learn what real work is. ”

 

“Over the last year, the Progressive Caucus has been privileged to stand side by side with Americans from all across the country as they organize and rally for fair wages. We have met thousands of hard working men and women, many of whom work far more than 40 hours per week. Contrary to Erickson’s remarks, not one of them has failed at life."

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Washington, D.C. – Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) released the following statement to commemorate the anniversary of the creation of Medicare and Medicaid:

 

 “Today marks the 49th anniversary of the establishment of Medicare and Medicaid. President Lyndon Johnson signed these critical programs into law to give low-income Americans, young people with disabilities, and everyone 65 or older access to comprehensive health care. Americans today need access to healthcare, just as they did in 1965.

 

 “Nearly 50 million Americans receive comprehensive health coverage through Medicare. Medicare has been a model of success at controlling health care costs and eliminating administrative waste.  It remains one of the most vital reforms in U.S. history. As Republicans continue their attacks on Medicare under the guise of saving it, we stand against any cuts that harm beneficiaries.

 

 “More than 1 in every 5 - or over 66 million Americans - is covered by Medicaid at some point in the year. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) further expanded Medicaid eligibility to reach millions of Americans in need.  Despite its success, Medicaid is under constant threat from those who want to cut it or privatize it. Republican governors and state legislators in 22 states are refusing to expand Medicaid to protect those most vulnerable. The Progressive Caucus remains resolute in defending Medicaid and encourages every state to accept the expansion to help the economy and people of their state.

 

“The best way to honor the creation of Medicare and Medicaid is to build on their success and that of the ACA by providing Medicare for All. Single-payer health care is the most efficient, humane and thoroughly tested way to provide health care.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C.— The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) co-chairs Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) along with Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) issued statements this evening in advance of President Obama’s expected executive action enhancing workplace protections for federal contractors.

“President Obama is to be applauded for standing with the thousands of workers that have fought tirelessly and spoken courageously for dignity and fair work practices,” Rep. Ellison said. “This executive order builds on the President’s minimum wage executive order and will allow the federal government to lead in the fight for good jobs and hold workplaces accountable to fair standards.  It’s common sense to award federal contracts to companies that follow the law.”

“Every worker deserves fair pay for hard work, and today President Obama demonstrated his commitment to protecting that right,” Rep. Grijalva said. “This executive order ensures government agencies don’t reward companies that mistreat their workers. Taxpayer money should never support companies that do not support their own employees, and I’m glad to see the president act to ensure that no longer happens.”

“Once again, President Obama is taking strong action on behalf of hard working Americans," said Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. "The federal government has no business contracting to those who would violate federal law and trample workers’ rights. If we are to root out wage theft and labor abuses in America, we cannot overlook those perpetrated by federal contractors.”

“I am glad the President is taking action on this important issue, which the Congressional Progressive Caucus has done much to draw attention to in Congress,” said Democratic Whip Hoyer. “Off-the-clock work and denial of overtime pay represents not only a significant violation of our laws but also of the basic American belief that hard work ought to lead to fair compensation and opportunity.  At a time when those earning the lowest salaries are already struggling to make ends meet, combating wage theft goes hand in hand with efforts to raise the minimum wage and invest in education and job training that will help workers rise up into our middle class.”

The Progressive Caucus has been advocating for better workplace protections for the past year. In March, the CPC sent a letter to the Department of Labor urging Secretary Thomas E. Perez to collect data on contractors that engage in wage theft. This summer, CPC members have successfully attached wage theft amendments to four appropriations bills. Just last week, the Progressive Caucus sent a letter to the President asking him to sign a Good Jobs Executive Order to reward contractors that treat their workers fairly.  

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WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) held an Ad-Hoc Hearing to receive first hand testimony from unaccompanied minors currently in the United States and expert witnesses who stressed the importance of prioritizing the best interests of these children. The hearing can be seen here. The Congressional Progressive Caucus previously sent a proposal to President Obama urging him to follow a kids first policy on the southern border.

“Today, we heard first-hand the great lengths to which the 57,000 unaccompanied minors who have sought refuge in our country have gone to reach safety.  Their stories are a testimonial to the importance of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA). These children have come to the United States to flee the violence and danger of their home countries, and it is imperative that we put the safety of these kids first and allow their right to due process to be protected.”

Today’s event coincided with a “Have a Heart” campaign in the hearing room and on social media. Members wore heart shaped pins and emphasized the need to address the human impact of the border crisis.

“Lawmakers need to ‘Have a Heart’ when it comes to this issue – we need to understand the desperate causes bringing these kids to our doorstep before we jump to conclusions about how to address them. We thank Dulce, Mayeli and Saul for bravely bringing us closer to that goal today.”

Washington, D.C.-The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) sent a letter to PresidentObama today urginghim to sign a Good Jobs Executive Order. The text of the letter is below and a signed version can be found here. The Congressional Progressive Caucus also held a forum today to release the letter and discuss wage theft. The forum can be seen here.

Dear President Obama:

 

The Congressional Progressive Caucus writes to recommend a Good Jobs Executive Order.  The initiative would build on your recent executive order to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for federal contract workers.  As a result of your leadership on fair wages and economic inequality, hundreds of thousands of workers will receive an overdue pay raise and fewer will rely on safety-net programs.  More businesses will be able to compete for contracts on the basis of quality and efficiency rather than by paying low wages.  Still, too many workers employed by federal contractors experience wage theft and lack standard workplace protections.  The Good Jobs Executive Order would address these important aspects of job fairness.  

 

Over the past thirty years, wages and benefits have stagnated or declined for most middle-class workers, as employers have increasingly resisted their efforts to achieve collective bargaining rights and union density has declined.  At the same time, violations of workers’ rights like wage theft, which includes off-the-clock work and non-payment of overtime, remain unaddressed.  

 

These trends are prevalent in the federal contracting community. A recent Demos report found that many of the federal contracting jobs in the private sector provide poverty-level or lower-wage jobs that do not support a middle class living standard for workers and their families. Many of these jobs are held by women and people of color. A report by the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee of the United States Senate (HELP) found that 35 percent of the largest Department of Labor penalties for wage theft were levied against federal contractors. According to the report, more than $500 billion government dollars go to companies that receive federal contracts each year. These companies employ around one-fifth of the entire American workforce or approximately 26 million workers. 

 

One of the most effective ways to spur economic growth and build the middle class is to reform federal contracting policy.  The Congressional Progressive Caucus calls for a Good Jobs Executive Order that includes the following provisions: 

 

  1. 1. Guaranteeing labor and employment law protections.  Identify and track violations of workers’ legal protections to facilitate swift corrective action.  Prevent law-breakers from receiving federal contracts.  Expand worker protections to the federally-supported workers that are currently exempt from existing workplace laws.  
  2. 2. Adopting a “Fair Compensation preference.”  Provide a preference in contracting decisions for employers that pay a living wage and a full benefits package, including a health care, paid sick and family leave, and fair work schedules.
  3. 3. Respecting workers’ rights to negotiate.  Provide a preference in contracting decisions for employers that respect the right of their workers to collectively bargain for fair wages and working conditions without having to go on strike. 

Anyone who works full time should make enough to meet their basic needs.  A Good Jobs Executive Order, which could impact millions of workers, is a logical next step after raising the wage of federal contract workers to $10.10 earlier this year. We urge you to adopt it as a centerpiece of your ongoing effort to grow and strengthen the middle class. We stand ready to work with you.

 

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WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) released the following statement today after President Obama signed an executive order protecting federal contract workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

“We applaud President Obama for signing an executive order to protect employees of federal contractors from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Equally important are the protections included for transgender federal workers. No American should fear discrimination on the job because of who they are or who they love. The executive order signed today brings us one step closer to protecting the rights of all Americans in the workplace.  

“Discrimination is never acceptable. Today, there are no federal laws protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) Americans from being fired for their gender identity or sexual orientation, and nearly 40% of workers who identify as LGBT report experiencing some form of employment discrimination. 

“We must continue to work to prevent discrimination by passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the House of Representatives. Our nation does best when all Americans are protected fairly and equally on the job.” 

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WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Reps Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), along with Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jim Moran (D-VA), John Conyers (D-MI) and Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) released the following statements today after an agreement was reached for a four-month extension on negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program between the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China, Russia (P5+1) and Iran.

“News of a four month extension in negotiations with Iran means the prospect for an Iran without nuclear ambitions is still very possible,” Rep. Grijalva said. “It also means peaceful and normalized relations are well within the scope of possibility. I am encouraged to see all parties involved continue the momentum towards that goal, and encourage them to take the time, space and steps needed to succeed where others have failed.”

“We are on the edge of a significant moment in the history of diplomacy,” Rep. Ellison said. “Congress should not undermine our diplomats during negotiations with Iran’s representatives in Vienna. Since negotiations began, Iran has complied with the Joint Plan of Action. Transparency and access have increased. We now know more about Iran’s nuclear capabilities. If negotiators need more time to reach a comprehensive agreement, we should support them, not make it harder for them to do their jobs by passing more sanctions. It is in America’s best interest to continue on the path of diplomacy.”

“Last year's first-step deal addressing Iran’s nuclear program was a diplomatic victory that directly reduces Iran’s ability to achieve breakout capacity,” said Rep. Lee. “This extension will continue to restrict Iran’s nuclear capability while creating the diplomatic space and time for a long-term deal that supports U.S. national security interests and a more peaceful and secure world.”

“It is critical that Congress take no action that undermines the Administration’s diplomatic efforts during this extension which was provided for under the Joint Plan of Action,” Rep. Moran said. “I continue to be hopeful that an agreement can be reached which will avert the threat of a militarized Iranian nuclear program.”

“There’s only one safe and sensible way to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon—diplomacy,” Rep. Conyers said. “The temporary agreement reached last year has yielded real benefits for the US and the broader world. The choice is whether we continue to build on this success or return to mutually destructive confrontation.  Denying our negotiators the time they need to secure an agreement would simply result in Iran unfreezing its nuclear program.  While some advocate for additional sanctions, these measures would counterproductively embolden hardliners in Iran’s government and put us back on a path to war.  Americans oppose the use of military force against Iran by a margin of 70 to 22, and for good reason: War with Iran would be disastrous for US interests and carry unacceptable costs in terms of lives and treasure. Americans know that we must give diplomacy a full opportunity to succeed so we can direct our limited resources towards urgently-needed rebuilding here at home.”

“Our families are safer from any potential Iranian nuclear weapons today than we were prior to these ongoing negotiations,” Rep. Doggett said. “Those who so loudly criticized the interim agreement were wrong. Regular, intrusive inspections have given us much more information and have frozen nuclear weapon development. Iran has received just enough sanctions relief to demonstrate the potential benefits of cooperation but not enough to rejuvenate its economy. With continued careful monitoring and more tough negotiating, this extension offers an opportunity to advance our security objectives by finalizing a solid alternative to war. Congress must not impede the progress.”

Washington, D.C. –The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in response to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet. The CPC previously sent a letter to Chairman Wheeler urging him to use reclassification to protect net neutrality. 

 

The text of the comments is below and a signed version can be found here.

 

COMMENTS OF THE 

CONGRESSIONAL PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS [CO-CHAIRS]

 

The Congressional Progressive Caucus [co-chairs Representative Raúl Grijalva and Representative Keith Ellison] submits these comments in response to the Commission’s May 15th Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet.[1]

 

More than three dozen Members of our Caucus and Members of Congress wrote to Chairman Wheeler before the release of that Notice, voicing support for “strong and enforceable open Internet rules that proactively protect Internet users from unfair practices, including the blockage of lawful traffic or discrimination among content providers by Internet Service Providers (ISPs).”[2]  We appreciate the Chairman’s response to our letter, in which he agreed that “the Commission must craft meaningful rules to protect the Open Internet” and assured us he would “utilize the best tools available . . . to ensure the Commission adopts effective and resilient open Internet rules.”[3]  Unfortunately, the Commission’s tentative proposal in the Notice does not live up to those assurances.

 

The proposed rules simply would not be effective to prevent blocking and unreasonable discrimination by broadband ISPs.  Weakening these rules beyond repair by basing them on discredited assumptions of the Commission’s legal authority would pose a grave threat to the open Internet and all of the benefits it brings to our constituents and our country.

Protecting American Ingenuity for All 

 

The Internet provides a platform not just for the powerful and privileged, but for individuals and groups whose voices have traditionally been ignored.  It currently provides an accessible and democratic outlet for all types of opinions, no matter where they fall on the political or social spectrum.  It increases civic participation, involvement in the electoral process, and access to government services.  It enhances educational opportunities, creates jobs, and bridges distances and divides – both in geography and opportunity.  It lets us tell our own stories, making room for the voices of women, people of color, LGBT individuals, low-wealth households, members of all religious groups and ethnic populations, and residents of rural and urban areas alike.  The Internet as we know it has spawned a new era of American innovation that benefited consumers and enterprises alike.  It allows individuals, small businesses and start-ups to freely pursue the American dream and to compete against multinational corporations and conglomerates on the basis of ideas and technology.

 

All of that would change if the Commission takes the wrong path in this proceeding.  While Broadband ISPs provide some of the infrastructure to reach the Internet, there is no reason to abandon longstanding Net Neutrality principles and give a handful of companies disproportionate control over the choices Americans have once they get online. Four companies currently control broadband Internet access to 75% of the country.  Any proposal that allows for content prioritization to be made on the basis of “payola” rather than efficiency of data delivery will allow a small cadre of corporations to have undue influence over innovation and speech.  If the Chairman’s proposed changes to our Internet were in place years ago, truly democratic and deeply impactful innovations like YouTube, Etsy, or Kickstarter may have never flourished.

There is no evidence to support the notion that a choice must be made between openness and affordability. Access to a slow lane and a second-class Internet is not good enough, and it’s not a bargain anyone should be asked or compelled to accept.

The Commission Cannot Protect the Open Internet While Allowing Discrimination

 

As we noted in our letter, without strong protections against ISP interference, “the Internet could devolve into a closed platform in which those who pay the most can overwhelm other views and ideas.”[4]  Chairman Wheeler’s response discussed ISPs’ obvious incentives to exert this kind of control in order to boost their own bottom lines, at the expense of free expression and economic opportunities for others.  As the Chairman wrote, “[t]he Commission has already found, and the court has agreed, that broadband providers have economic incentives and technological tools to engage in behavior that can limit Internet openness and harm consumers and competition.”[5]

 

The court in question is the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which struck down several of the Commission’s Open Internet rules earlier this year.  It did so not because not because of the merits of those rules, or any flaw in the policies they promote, but the legal theory the put forward to support them.  The Commission proposes in the Notice to adopt new rules replacing those just overturned – yet proposes using the same legal theory that the court just rejected.

 

In his response to our letter, Chairman Wheeler suggested that he shared our concerns “about arrangements that would prioritize certain traffic and allow ISPs to discriminate against other traffic.”[6]  He said that “there must only be one Internet. It must be fast, robust and open for everyone.”[7]  We could not agree more.

 

That is why we were disappointed to find in the Commission’s Notice proposed rules that “would allow broadband providers sufficient flexibility to negotiate terms of service individually with edge providers . . . without having to hold themselves out to serve all comers indiscriminately on the same or standardized terms.”[8]  Similarly problematic, and equally disappointing, are the Commission’s tentative conclusions to “permit broadband providers to engage in individualized practices” [9] and “carry traffic on an individually negotiated basis.”[10]

 

Granting broadband providers such “flexibility” could mean an end to the Internet as we know it.  The Commission simply cannot claim that it will simultaneously prevent discrimination online while explicitly letting ISPs decide when and where to discriminate and provide preferential treatment to individual websites.

 

Congress Has Already Given the Commission the Authority to Prevent Discrimination

 

The Commission should use its clear authority under Title II of the Communications Act to prevent unjust ISP practices and unreasonable discrimination.  Reclassifying broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service would provide all the authority needed for strong open Internet rules.  Reclassification also would complement the Commission’s efforts to promote innovation, competition and investment in universally available, reliable and affordable broadband infrastructure.

 

Recognizing our nation’s communications providers as common carriers is common sense, and the only way for the Commission to accomplish its stated goals for this proceeding

 

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Washington, D.C. –The Congressional Progressive Caucus sent a proposal to the White House today urging President Obama to take a kids first approach to address the humanitarian crisis on the southern border. The full proposal can be seen here. En español here

 

“The act of seeking asylum in the face of violence is not new, nor is it specific to just the United States, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva  (D-AZ) said. “To see politicians oversimplifying this desperate plea for help as an immigration enforcement issue is concerning, and to see their willingness to weaken the protections of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act is even more so.

 

“We must place the well being of these kids first. We should allow the protections in our existing laws to play their intended role. We should reassess the aid we send to nations with corrupt police and military forces to ensure we are part of the solution, not the problem,” Rep. Grijalva continued. “Most of all, we must realize that increased enforcement on our border is a solution in need of a problem, and proponents of militarization are using the plight of these kids to achieve their political agenda.”

 

Thousands of children seeking refuge in our country are at risk, and this proposal puts their needs ahead of politics,” Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) said. “The solutions to this crisis must put the safety of the kids first and respect their right to due process under our nation’s laws.”

 

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