Mariel Saez, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke in support of federal employees at the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) legislative conference rally today. Below is a transcript of his remarks:
“I am so pleased to be here. [Congressman] Keith Ellison was introduced as someone who was there in the heat, he was there in the rain, he was there today – a little warmer right now with the sun – but we’re going to be there. We’re going to be there in the heat, we’re going to be there in the rain and the wet and the storm, and we’re going to be there in the cold. Because we want to share the prosperity, not the austerity.
“You know I chaired the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe for 10 years, we call it the Helsinki Commission. [The] Helsinki Final Act was signed post World War II on the theory that if a country mistreated its own citizens, it wouldn’t be long until it mistreated the citizens of other countries. And [Congressman] Jim Moran talked about the Board of Directors. And if the Board of Directors mistreats its own employees, its own colleagues in government, it should not be surprising that they mistreat other working people.
“We should have extended on December 27 unemployment insurance for 1.3 million people. That now 1.7 million people [have lost unemployment insurance] - that we, in the House of Representatives, are forgetting, are leaving on the side of the road. We won’t cross the street, we’re not good Samaritans. We’re not keeping the faith for those who worked hard and through no fault of their own lost their jobs.
“And then the other thing – and 70 plus percent of the American people think that – you shouldn’t be making less than you made in 1968 working in America, where the minimum wage in 1968 was $10.57 per hour in 2013 dollars. It’s $7.25 today. We’ve got to get America out of reverse and put it in forward.
“Now how are we going to do that? Because you know one voice may be a powerful voice, may be an articulate voice, may be an active voice, but it’s one voice. But if you add another voice it’s a little louder. And you add a third and a fourth and a fifth and a tenth and a hundredth and a thousandth and ten thousandth, and that voice becomes something that will be listened to and you can demand a response to. And that’s why I urge every federal employee, every non-federal employee to organize, pay up, to act up, and to be heard. Because that’s what America has always seen. That if you are organized you would have an effect.
“In unity there is strength. In unity there is effectiveness. In unity we can make a difference. And whether it’s treating federal employees properly and not expecting them to be the only ones in America who are going to help pay off this debt. We’ve got to pay off this debt for our children’s sake, but federal employees ought not to be asked to pay it off themselves.
“So I’m pleased to be here with my colleagues, Keith Ellison, Jim Moran, and [Congresswoman Donna Edwards] I did not defer to and I apologize to her…. But I want you to know I’ve been with you every step of the way since May of 1981, and I’m going to be with you every step of the way until I’m no longer here. Because I want to see equity and I want to see a sharing of the prosperity, not the austerity. Keep the faith. Keep faith. And keep on, keeping on.”