Stephanie Young, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) delivered opening remarks at a hearing held by the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) on how some companies that receive substantial federal funding pay low wages and contribute to income inequality. Below are his remarks, as prepared for delivery:
“Thank you, Chairman Grijalva and Chairman Ellison, for holding this hearing about the difficulties faced by those working under federal contracts earning at or less than minimum wage at a time when the cost of living is rising. A number of these individuals live in my district, and this is an issue I am very concerned about. And thanks to the Change to Win organization for keeping this issue at the forefront of the public consciousness.
“This hearing is a demonstration of the Progressive Caucus’s commitment to ensuring that working families and those facing the toughest economic challenges are not forgotten in Congress.
“From hearing the stories of the workers here today – and from what we’ve seen and heard in all of our districts in recent years – it is clear that the current minimum wage is outdated. Anyone can tell you that $7.25 an hour, even for two working adults, is just not enough for a family to live on. You may be able to eat, but it is a struggle to afford the opportunities that secure a family’s place in our middle class.
“The costs of education, health care, retirement savings, have risen faster than the minimum wage. President Obama proposed raising it to $9 an hour in his State of the Union address earlier this year. While I believe an extra $1.75 an hour will certainly help those making minimum wage, I think we ought to go further than that. This is especially true given new challenges they are facing – challenges of Congress’s own making.
“Families subsisting on minimum wage are among the most vulnerable to the effects of the Republican sequestration policy, which is now in effect. The sequester’s cuts to social services and to programs that foster opportunities for working families and the middle class are making it even harder for our lowest-paid workers and their families to get by. The effects of the sequester on those who are struggling to make ends meet at the lowest income levels remains a focus of the task force I launched earlier this year, which is being chaired by Rep. Barbara Lee.
“The Democratic Whip’s Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity has been working on finding ways to make sure every American is able to afford and access the opportunities that make the American Dream a reality.
“I am eager to hear from the witnesses today as they share their stories, and I thank them for speaking out about the hardships they and their families are facing as a result of stagnant wages and federal contracting policies.