The American dream has always been that anyone who works hard can succeed and leave their children – and our country – better off. Generations of American workers have built our country – our roads and bridges infrastructure, health and educational systems, service and manufacturing sectors. We owe it to them and to future generations to provide employment and opportunity.
We must work not just to create jobs in America but to create good jobs – jobs that provide women and men with the wages and benefits needed to raise their families, that provide safe working conditions, and that ensure that all workers are treated with dignity and respect. As a proud union member and a member of the Congressional Labor and Working Families Caucus, I believe that the right to organize and join a union is essential to achieving those goals. Union members not only receive higher pay and better retirement, health and paid leave benefits – they raise the standards for all workers. That is why I have been a previous cosponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act and have worked to ensure that the rights to organize and collectively bargain can be exercised freely and fairly.
I am also a strong supporter of raising the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, which has not been increased for over a decade even though the price of everything from gasoline to health care has risen during that time. If the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation over the past 50 years, it would be $11.62 an hour today. Instead, a full-time, full-year minimum wage earner earns $15,080 a year -- over $10,000 below the poverty level for a family of four. In the increasingly global economy, protecting the rights of workers abroad is not just a human rights priority, but an economic one.
It is also time that American workers are guaranteed paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave. Nearly 3 in 10 private sector workers are denied paid sick leave – 69% of all low-wage workers. Workers should not be forced to choose between being paid and staying home to take care of their own illness or a sick family member.
I also believe we must end discrimination in the workplace – whether it is based on gender, age, sexual orientation or identity, race or ethnicity. I was proud to watch President Obama sign the Lilly Ledbetter bill into law – the first act of his Administration – and am proud to have helped pass the Paycheck Fairness Act in the House so that women will no longer be paid 80 cents to the dollar paid to men -- a number even less for minority women. I was a long-term cosponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and now am a cosponsor of the Equality Act, which end discrimination against the LGBT community.
I am the chair of the International Workers' Rights Caucus (IWRC), which serves as a voice for millions of working people around the world. The IWRC works to raise awareness of worker exploitation and to promote the enforcement of labor rights internationally.
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