Americans United for Change Unveils List of Top 18 ‘Public Enemies of the Middle Class’ in Congress
March 07, 2007
These Enemies of the Middle Class to be targeted with Ads, Events and Online Protests to Convince Them to Stand with Middle Class Americans
- Voted against raising the minimum wage for the first time in a decade
- Voted against leveling the playing field for middle class workers by restoring their freedom to choose unions
- Put the special interests first - double check
Washington D.C. - In response to their full frontal, unapologetic assault on the middle class agenda in the 110th session of the U.S. House of Representatives, Americans United for Change today dubbed eighteen Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, ‘Public Enemies of the Middle Class,' including: Michelle Bachmann (MN-6), Marilyn Musgrave (CO-4), Jeff Fortenberry (NE-1), Steve King (IA-5), Scott Garrett (NJ-5), Bill Sali (ID-1), Brian Bilbray (CA-50), John Doolittle (CA-4), Roy Blunt (MO-7), Roscoe Bartlett (MD-6), Steve Chabot (OH-1), Tom Davis (VA-11), Thelma Drake (VA-2), Vernon Ehlers (MI-3), Mike Rogers (MI-8), Dean Heller (NV-2), Jon Porter (NV-3) and Peter Roskam (IL-6).
Specifically, Americans United took issue with the Representatives' votes against: 1) H.R.2, the Fair Minimum Wage Act which would raise the federal minimum wage for the first time since 1997 from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour over two years; and 2) H.R. 800, the Employee Free Choice Act, which would level the playing field for middle class workers by fixing a badly broken system for forming unions and bargaining with big business and Corporate America for better pay and improved benefits. Both bills passed in the U.S. House with bipartisan support, and Americans United for Change, the non-profit advocacy organization perhaps best known for leading the fight to beat back President Bush's disastrous proposal to privatize Social Security in 2005, is now urging Members of the U.S. Senate to do the right thing and move each element of the middle class agenda to the President's desk.
"More and more of America's working people are struggling to make ends meet, and our middle class is disappearing," said Jeremy Funk, spokesman for Americans United for Change. "At least two meaningful pieces of legislation to reverse this trend have already come before Congress this year - and, unfortunately, these eighteen Members were no where to be found when the middle class families they represent needed them most. Just last week, they each opposed the Employee Free Choice Act, which would give middle-class workers a fair shake by fixing a badly broken system for forming unions and bargaining with Corporate America for better pay, improved benefits and retirement security. Earlier this year, each of these Members opposed the first increase in the federal minimum wage in a decade. They couldn't even be counted on to stand up for the most vulnerable workers in their states who live in borderline poverty. A week later, half of these Members took their insensitivity towards the middle class plight a step further by opposing legislation to make college more affordable by slashing student loan interest rates in half. It's a question of priorities and a question of values - and it's clear that each of these Members have lost touch with the values of middle class Americans, whom overwhelmingly support these important initiatives. Until they get their priorities straight in Washington and stop pandering to the special interests at the expense of working people, we will continue to identify each Member as their districts' ‘middle class public enemy #1.'"
While more than 18 Republicans voted against both the minimum wage increase and the Employee Free Choice Act in the House, these 18 were selected as public enemies of the middle class because they either come from districts where these issues have gained added resonance because of the growing disparity between the wages of workers and corporate executives or because they had been identified as persuadable on these issues.
"Americans United for Change is prepared to make ‘poster children' out of there 18 members - and others - who continue to put the interests of the corporate America - which has had its way in Washington for the past six years - ahead of the interests of families and workers," said Funk. "If it takes television ads, online protests and public events with angry constituents to get these folks to do the right thing by middle class Americans -- then so be it."
Why middle class workers support the Employee Free Choice Act:
- The Employee Free Choice Act would: 1) strengthen penalties for companies that illegally coerce or intimidate employees in a effort to prevent them from forming a union; 2) bring in a neutral third party to settle a contract when a company and a newly certified union cannot agree on a contract after three months of negotiations; 3) establish 'majority sign up', meaning that if a majority of the employees sign union authorization cards, validated by the National Labor Relations Board, a company must recognize the union.
- It would level the playing field in a system that's stacked entirely in employers' favor - a system that routinely lets corrupt employers' get away with harassment, intimidation, coercion and even dismissal of workers who try to organize unions. See this report from American Rights At Work exposing the shocking reality of routine company union-busting intimidation tactics in the workplace.
- The Employee Free Choice Act is overwhelmingly supported by 69 percent of American public, according to a recent poll from the AFL-CIO. More than half of U.S. workers - nearly 60 million - say they would join a union right now if they could.
- Workers who belong to a union earn 30 percent more than nonunion workers. Union workers are 62 percent more likely to have employer-provided health coverage and four times more likely to have pensions than nonunion workers.
Why middle class families support the Fair Minimum Wage Act:
- The minimum wage has not been increased in nearly a decade, making this the longest span without a minimum wage increase since the wage was first implemented.
- Adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage is at its lowest level in 50 years.
- 83 percent of Americans support an increase in the federal minimum wage.
- Workers earning the minimum wage will only make $10,700 over the next year, $4,367 under the poverty threshold for a family of three. 3
- Nearly 13 million people would likely benefit from the increase - 5.6 million directly and 7.4 million indirectly.
- See this report from the Center for American Progress debunking the myth that a minimum wage increase would hurt small businesses.