It’s a new year, which means new resolutions, new inaugurations and the beginning of holding politicians accountable for their campaign promises. Last week I attended the Washington Interfaith Network’s (WIN) Inaugural Action with Mayor Muriel Bowser. In a packed church with standing room only, more than 900 WIN members and supporters came together to present the DC mayor with an agenda for ending homelessness, providing affordable housing and creating jobs that pay a living wage. In addition to asking where she stood on their agenda, the audience asked Mayor Bowser to renew the campaign season commitments she made to her supporters.
Advocates, religious leaders, and the mayor herself agreed that Washington, DC is at a crossroads. Many asked the question: What kind of city will DC be going forward? Will it be one that prices long-term residents out of their neighborhoods, or a place that welcomes families of all income levels? Will it be a city that provides its residents with decent jobs that have good benefits, or one where people work twelve hour days and still struggle to make ends meet?
As we approach the State of the Union address, those still looking to President Obama to fulfill his campaign promises are asking the same questions about the future of our country. What kind of place will America be in 2015 and beyond? The Center for Community Change envisions a society where everyone has enough to thrive, with access to quality jobs that pay a living wage. CCC’s campaign for living wage jobs seeks policy solutions that better serve the needs of low-income people and families.
Here are some of the points that we hope the president will cover during Tuesday’s State of the Union address:
1. Work with Congress to secure public investment for job creation and increased wages
Raising wages is crucial to solving issues related to poverty and income inequality. Since the late 1970s, the hourly wages of American workers have not kept up with productivity, which is why so many Americans today still struggle to make ends meet. As part of his economic policy agenda, President Obama must collaborate with Congress to ensure that all working Americans receive fair pay to provide for themselves and their families.
The president must also work with Congress to obtain public investment for infrastructure jobs and green jobs. Our country’s aging infrastructure offers a timely opportunity to get more people back into the workforce, and the U.S. can catch up to the rest of the world in energy efficiency through the creation of green jobs. Producing more jobs and raising wages will allow all Americans to benefit from our nation’s prosperity.
2. Continue to protect Obamacare, Medicare and Social Security from GOP attacks
On the first day of the new Congress, House Republicans enacted a rule change that threatens the future of the Social Security Disability Insurance program and jeopardizes funding for Social Security overall. With the new Republican-led Congress, these attacks are sure to continue. Therefore President Obama must take bold action to protect Social Security and other federal programs from benefit cuts that would harm at-risk Americans.
3. Robust implementation and defense of administrative relief on immigration
Since the moment he made his announcement to provide administrative relief for 5 million undocumented immigrants, the president has been met with stark resistance from the right. The latest efforts of House Republicans to derail DACA and cut off funding for Obama’s immigration action indicate that administrative relief will not be fulfilled without a fight. We hope that President Obama will use the State of the Union address as an opportunity to stand his ground and reinforce his plans to go forward with his immigration agenda.
4. Drive a real public debate about an agenda to make sure everyone in America has access to good, quality jobs
With an expanding labor market and a declining unemployment rate, you might think it’s safe to assume that American workers are faring well in the post-recession. Not necessarily.
While job growth reports may sound promising, the fact remains that one-third of the jobs created in 2014 were in low-wage sectors. Americans deserve quality jobs that offer them dignity in the workplace as well as a means to support their family. No one who is working full-time should have to depend on government assistance, nor should hard-working people be stuck in jobs that keep them in poverty.
During his speech on Tuesday, we expect President Obama to address how local, state and federal government initiatives can serve to guarantee a good job for all. His recent announcement calling on federal agencies to provide paid family leave and paid sick days is a step in the right direction, but there is still more to be done to make sure all families have what they need to thrive.
Photo credit: The U.S. Army