I am deeply concerned about growing income inequality in today’s workforce. Many middle-class workers are slipping further behind, struggling to pay the bills or provide opportunities for their families. If Congress fails to help America's middle class achieve greater economic security, our country will lose its competitive edge in the global marketplace.
Congress has implemented a number of measures over the past several years to protect America’s working families. We enacted an economic rebate package that put hundreds of dollars into the hands of more than 130 million American families – including seniors and disabled veterans. More recently, we enacted the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to protect workers from pay inequalities and discrimination. And I continue to fight to extend tax breaks for middle-class families and to preserve programs that provide critical assistance to families in the workforce.
Still, we have a long way to go to restore economic security for today’s working families. One of the most important actions we can take to protect American jobs is to close the loopholes that reward companies that ship American jobs overseas. We must also provide more incentives for businesses to remain or expand in the United States.
And we must raise the minimum wage. I am a cosponsor of H.R. 15, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $15.00 per hour over the next seven years. In real value, today’s minimum wage is approximately 30 percent below what it was in the 1970s. As American productivity has surged, the economic status of the American worker has diminished – and along with it, the capacity of consumers to continue driving our economy.
A fair minimum wage has the power to make work pay a little better, to give families a shot at a stronger future, and to grow our economy substantially. It is a corrective to obscene corporate welfare whereby American taxpayers must support low-wage workers when their employers don’t. And it reaffirms the basic American idea that if you put in 40 hours a week, you should be able to put food on your family’s table every day.
Finally, we must always strive to provide America’s workers with a safe and acceptable working environment. This not only includes a fair wage and safe working conditions, but also reasonable benefits that help employees take care of themselves and their families during times of poor health or family loss. One of the best ways to ensure this is to protect workers’ international rights to bargain collectively for better wages and benefits.
Unfortunately, the House recently approved a budget that benefits the well-off and well-connected and ignores the needs of struggling and middle-class families. As the Top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, I will continue to fight for a federal budget that creates jobs and strengthens all families while building our economy by investing in our greatest resource: the American worker.