When they go low, we go higher wages
Congressional leaders and President Trump just decided that several “must pass” bills to fund critical services and pay our debts will be put off until December. This sets up a showdown where Republicans will no doubt make demands in exchange for doing the bare minimum to keep our economy running, just as they’ve done for years. You can count on them to go low, and when they do, we should go high: higher wages for America’s working families.
Battle lines are being drawn over raising the nation’s debt ceiling, funding the government and a host of other issues. Wages have been stagnant for decades, making economic security a thing of the past for far too many Americans. So over the next three months our message should be simple: Raise Wages!
Republicans control both Congress and the White House and they have their priorities. They will use any funding “crisis” to demand large, irresponsible cuts to critical programs like Pre-K and Meals on Wheels. They’ll try to rip health care away from millions, again. They’ll call for “tax reform” – which in Washington means welfare for the wealthy. Meanwhile, the president will keep threatening to shut down government if Americans don’t pay billions for a border wall that won’t make us safer.
None of this will actually help the very real crisis facing millions of our families every day. So why are we putting up with it? Yes, we must continue to fight back, but we can and must do more. Let’s seize the moment to stand up for what Americans need and deserve. Let’s raise wages for hard working Americans.
I’ve worked for minimum wage and I spent my career fighting for good pay for workers. After completing an apprenticeship and becoming an electrician, I led local living wage campaigns and successfully fought to raise New Jersey’s minimum wage. I am living proof that the best social program in the world is a good job and the dignity that comes with it, but that dream is slipping away.
It’s been over a decade since Congress last voted to increase the minimum wage. We’re more productive than ever, but it’s all going to CEO bonuses and offshore accounts instead of actual paychecks. This breakdown of the social contract over the last 40 years has left fully-employed workers and their children either struggling or failing.
That’s why we must raise the federal minimum wage over the next seven years to $15 an hour. Raising the wage will help over 40 million Americans get the fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work that they aren’t getting today – and they’ll put that money back into their local economies.
Think it can’t happen in a divisive Congress?
The last time the wage was raised, in 2007, it was as part of one of those “must-pass” bills – and it was approved with strong bipartisan support. Other examples through history show that if we can just put the issue to a vote, it will pass by a wide margin.
This should be what we’re fighting for every day, every chance we get. Raise the debt ceiling? Of course. But we should also raise the wage floor. Tax breaks for corporations to grow the economy? How about bigger paychecks for their workers – which we know works?
America’s families are experiencing a long-term decline in their economic security. It’s a real national crisis and we need to make it our business to fix it. If not us, who? If not now, when? Let’s make raising wages our top priority and let’s do it now.
Donald Norcross, D-Cherry Hill, represents the 1st Congressional District.