If you’ve kept up with the news lately, you’ve likely heard that some Republicans in Congress are once again pushing us closer to a government shutdown that would hurt working families and our nation’s economy.
I was proud to work with Republicans on a bipartisan budget deal after the last shutdown, and I am hopeful that it doesn’t take another one to bring them back to the table this year. Because instead of lurching from one crisis to the next, Congress should be focused on what we’ve seen work so well in Tacoma and Washington state: helping workers succeed, businesses thrive, and the economy grow.
Unlike what some politicians have been telling us for years, truly robust economic growth doesn’t come from the top down – it comes from the middle out. And our state has been leading the nation on policies to help our economy, government, and workplaces work for all families, not just the wealthiest few.
In Congress, I have been fighting to bring the Washington state way to Washington, D.C. to help provide workers with some much-needed economic security, stability, and opportunity.
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For too long, a deeply flawed theory – championed by too many Republicans – has taken root in our nation’s capital that if we would only grant more tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, and if we would just keep rolling back regulations on the biggest corporations, those benefits would eventually trickle down and reach working families in our country.
Not only does that theory not work, that trickle-down system has done real damage to our nation’s middle class and working families. To make economic security a reality for more Americans and to help our economy grow in a way that works for the middle class, we have to address this challenge on multiple fronts.
For starters, we should pass the Paycheck Fairness Act to finally close the pay gap between men and women. Today, full-time working women earn just 78 cents for every dollar a man makes. The Paycheck Fairness Act would tackle pay discrimination head-on.
Right now, the federal minimum wage of $7.25 can leave a family in poverty, even after working full time and without taking a single day off. Washington state’s minimum wage is higher – but I think we need a fair federal floor for all workers. My Raise the Wage Act would increase the minimum wage to $12 by 2020. That will provide a strong base that workers and cities can build off of and go even higher where it makes sense, like a number of cities in Washington state and across the country have started to do.
Today, some businesses use unfair scheduling practices that keep workers guessing about when they’ll work and how much money they’ll earn in a given week. So, I’ve teamed up with some other Democrats on legislation to crack down on scheduling abuses to make sure workers are treated fairly.
More workers should be allowed to earn paid sick days. As the owner of Pacific Grill in downtown Tacoma put it, many workers simply cannot afford to take time off when they are sick, and, “their paycheck stops, but their bills do not.” He said Pacific Grill will soon begin offering paid sick days, before
Tacoma's local ordinance is finalized, because it will give workers some much-needed economic security, and it will make the business, as a whole, more attractive.
Finally, but just as importantly, we as a nation should not turn our backs on empowering workers through collective bargaining, especially because strong unions make sure workers have a voice at the table.
These few examples won't solve every problem facing workers and families, and they are not the only ways I will be fighting to make sure the economy is growing from the middle out, not the top down. But they would be strong steps in the right direction.
Expanding economic security and stability is the Washington state way, and it’s time for the Republican majorities in Congress to take note. So once we get past this latest manufactured and unnecessary crisis, I’m going to keep fighting for ways to build on our economic recovery and invest in middle-out growth that benefits workers and families in Tacoma and across Washington state.
Patty Murray represents Washington state in the U.S. Senate.