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WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) delivered remarks today at the Congressional Progressive Caucus's “Wage Theft” briefing. Below is a transcript of his remarks:
“I want to thank all of you for being here. Robert [Hiltonsmith, Policy Analyst at Demos], I want to thank you for being here as well. Our nation has always stood for the basic principle that if you work hard and take responsibility you ought to be able to make a decent living, get paid a fair wage for your labor, and have access to opportunities that enable you to secure a place in our middle class. I said that was our principle, but it is not always our reality. We speak about the labor movement, which a lot of people fought for, walked for, spoke out for, and some died for the right for Americans to come together and bargain for fair wages, good working conditions, and a good security for the long term.
“Today for too many people in our country that dream has become, in the words of the poet Langston Hughes, ‘a dream deferred.’ I would add to that: a dream denied. When workers who make minimum wage full-time struggle to make ends meet, that dream is deferred and denied. When others are being forced to work off the clock or are denied overtime in a gross violation of our labor laws, it leads to a dream deferred and a dream denied. And when those who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own are cut off from their emergency unemployment insurance in the dead of winter because of partisan obstruction of Congress, that is a dream deferred and a dream denied.
“But I still believe – as all of you do, because you’re here – I believe in the American Dream, and I know that Rep. Ellison believes in the American Dream, and no one in Congress is fighting harder for those who have been left out, ignored, and undermined. Nobody is fighting harder than [Rep.] Keith Ellison is, for all of you, and I’m glad to be his partner in this effort. I believe Leader Pelosi will be here a little later on. She is fighting for those values, and she, like me, believes that [Rep.] Keith Ellison is our leader in articulating and focusing on those who are being left out and left behind.
“Democrats are fighting for that dream and the rights of American workers to have access to jobs that pay well and open doors to opportunity. We have an agenda that we call ‘Jumpstart the Middle Class.’ One way you jumpstart the middle class is to add people to the middle class. And the way you add people to the middle class is to make sure they are paid properly. Henry Ford used to say, ‘If you don’t pay them, they can’t buy our cars.’ That was a simple, straight-forward, honest reflection of why he paid his workers better than his competitors paid their workers, and he ultimately did better than his competitors.
“We’re working to restore emergency unemployment insurance and strengthen labor laws to protect our workers and prevent Republicans from unraveling critical worker protections. It’s because we’re all better off when workers are better off. The Congressional Progressive Caucus continues to play a key role in these efforts, thanks, as I said earlier, to the leadership of Rep. Ellison and Rep. Grijalva and Members of the Caucus. It is crucial that Congress is able to hear the stories of Americans that are facing these struggles every day, as today’s hearing makes possible. Thank you, [Rep.] Keith Ellison. I hope our colleagues across the aisle, many of whom have been holding up the restoration of emergency unemployment insurance and legislation to raise the minimum wage and create jobs, will make an effort to hear your stories.
“We talk about raising the minimum wage to $10.10 in about three years. If we were paying the same minimum wage we paid in 1968 today, that minimum wage would be $10.77 an hour. Not three years from now. Today in 2014 dollars. $10.77. That, in my opinion, is what we really ought to do to make sure that people are living at least as well as they would have in 1968 and have the purchasing power they had in 1968. Now I want to hear from you guys. [Rep.] Keith Ellison, nor I, nor the Democratic Members of Congress of the United States, and I think, some honest and decent Republicans, who have voted with us on some of these things – their voices will not be silenced either. But your voices of your real experiences and your struggles and your aspirations and hopes will be very, very powerful. Thank you for being here.”