Congressional Progressive Caucus to launch campaign on behalf of low-wage workers

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus will soon begin a nationwide tour intended to "highlight the problem of stagnant and low wages for American workers," caucus co-chair Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota told msnbc Wednesday. Dubbed the "Raise Up America" campaign, the tour will officially launch on June 22 at the Netroots Nation conference in San Jose, California.

"We're going to talk about the need to increase wages," he said. "We're going to talk about growing inequality, the growing concentration of wealth at the top, and how that growing concentration is not just economic but also translates into political influence."

This is the second time Ellison and other members of the Progressive Caucus have gone on tour to promote these issues. In the summer of 2011, the caucus launched the "Speak Out For Good Jobs Now" tour, in opposition to Republican-supported spending cuts. Citing lessons learned from the tour, Ellison re-introduced the Put America to Work Act in late June of that year. The legislation, intended to provide a $350 billion boost to state and local job creation efforts, died in committee.

This year, the tour will begin in the midst of what one Detroit-area organizer promised would be a "long, hot summer" for low-wage worker activism. Over the past six months, workers in low-wage retail and fast food jobs across the country have initiated an historic series of strikes against American business giants like Walmart and McDonald's. While Ellison emphasized that the Progressive Caucus' campaign was being planned before the first major fast food strike occurred in New York, he emphasized that he and his colleagues share a common cause with the striking workers in New York, St. Louis, Milwaukee, and other cities.

In March, Ellison co-sponsored the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, which would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour. While that’s more than the $9 minimum wage that President Obama has proposed, it doesn’t match the $15 base wage demanded by striking fast food workers. Speaking to msnbc, Ellison said he would like to peg the minimum wage in private companies to the level of pay their CEOs and executives receive.