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.
More on Labor
WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), a Senior Chief Deputy Whip and Chair of the Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, issued the following statement after the House passed H.R. 3684, the INVEST In America Act, by a vote of 221-201:
Before the Supreme Court’s ruling in Gross v. FBL Financial Services Inc., older workers alleging age discrimination in the workplace had to prove that age was simply one of the motivating factors behind the discrimination. This is the same burden of proof faced by those alleging discrimination on the basis of race, sex, national origin or religion.
WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) joined U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in reintroducing the Nurse Staffing Standards for Hospital Patient Safety and Quality Care Act. Schakowsky and Brown’s bill would set minimum nurse-to-patient staffing requirements, study best practices for nurse staffing, and provide whistleblower protections to protect the right of nurses to advocate for the safety of their patients. Currently, very few states have rules written into law that establish minimum staffing levels at hospitals.
EVANSTON – Today, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, a Senior Chief Deputy Whip and a senior member of the House Budget Committee, introduced legislation to remove sequestration constraints on the unemployment insurance program for railroad employees. The Railroad Employee Equity and Fairness (REEF) Act is being introduced with a group of 5 bipartisan original co-sponsors; Representatives Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (IL-04), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), Donald Payne Jr. (NJ-10), Peter DeFazio (OR-04), and Don Bacon (NE-02).