Unions and allies converge on D.C. to raise wages

WASHINGTON – Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., will be the featured speaker at the first-ever National Summit on Wages here on Wednesday of this week. The gathering, sponsored by the AFL-CIO, the largest labor federation in the nation, will take the first steps in a new national drive to raise the wages of America’s workers.

If those arriving here to launch that drive are any indication, the nation is about to see the roll-out of a dramatic effort more diverse than any wage campaign in American history. Arriving for the summit are working people from across the job spectrum, labor leaders, union members and their allies, leading academicians, major business owners and lawmakers and administration officials – among that latter group Labor Secretary Thomas Perez.

Some have said the selection of Sen. Warren as the keynote speaker indicates labor’s intention to involve itself early in the 2016 presidential election campaign. Although many progressives have urged her to throw her hat into the ring Warren denies she is a candidate.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the senator was selected because she is “a true champion of working people.”

“Sen. Warren knows how to protect Main Street from Wall Street, fight for jobs and rebuild the American dream,” he said. “She has a defined set of values and, unlike many politicians, she actually sticks by those and fights to implement them.”

For her part, Warren is making no secret of her strong support for the labor movement. “Hardworking people across the country deserve to earn fair and decent wages so they can build a better future for themselves and their kids,” she declared, adding, “The AFL-CIO’s National Summit on Wages will give us a chance to ramp up our efforts to grow opportunities for America’s working families and strengthen our middle class.”

The conference, which will be held at Gallaudet University here, will feature workers from around the country who will talk about their experiences earning what they earn and fighting for better wages. Among them will be electricians, janitors, teachers aides and full fledged teachers, Walmart workers, actors, and corrections officers. Local and national union leaders and their allies and business leaders too will join them.

The summit comes after a 40-year period during which earnings for the wealthiest Americans have been continually and rapidly outpacing income growth for the broad majority.

The individuals and groups gathering here note that income inequality is not just a battle over being able to afford to buy more things. Many expected to participate in the deliberations here say that the huge income gap has numerous effects well beyond just making the “finer things of life” less available. Increased feelings of disenfranchisement, social conflict, fewer opportunities for advancement and deepening poverty are also direct results of the income gap, they note. Many of the economists gathering here for the summit add that the income gap is also a key factor in destroying the middle class and thereby slowing down the entire economy.

Full coverage of the summit will be provided by peoplesworld.org.

Photo: Fast food workers demonstration in Oakland, California, December 4, 2014. Marilyn Bechtel/PW



John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.