Essential workers pressure lawmakers to prioritize $15 minimum wage in COVID-19 relief bill

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A group of essential workers are rallying across the country on Tuesday to pressure members of Congress and other lawmakers to prioritize workers’ needs and a higher minimum wage in the COVID-19 relief effort.

Workers plan to congregate in ways including car caravans, town halls, rallies and protests in 20 states in a movement advocating for a $15 federal minimum wage and beneficial relief to working families. 

In D.C., workers with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Fight for $15 gathered at Thomas Circle on the steps of the National City Christian Church for a socially distanced rally. At the church, the rallygoers plan to erect an art installation honoring essential workers. 

“Government and corporations need to realize that we are essential and we always have been,” Judith Howell, a security officer in D.C., said in a release. “Our country can not survive without a transformative change. And that change begins with COVID relief and a federal minimum wage of at least $15 an hour.”

The SEIU and Fight for $15 promoted the rally in several tweets, including photos of three banners hanging at the church, with one saying “Respect us. Protect Us. Pay Us.” Another banner held by advocates reads, “We need COVID relief and $15 now!”

“We kept the country going,” the SEIU wrote in a tweet. “We elected you. Now we expect you to deliver REAL relief AND a $15 min wage. No excuses.”

The effort to raise the federal minimum wage hit a roadblock last week when Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled that the $15 minimum wage provision could not be included in the COVID-19 relief bill if Democrats move it forward under special budget rules to avoid a filibuster. 

The White House said President Biden was “disappointed” in the ruling but plans to respect the decision.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), on the other hand, recommended Democrats “ignore” MacDonough’s ruling, saying it’s “nonsensical” one person determines whether pay is raised for millions. 

The Senate intends to vote on the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill later this week after the House approved the measure over the weekend.

Tags Bernie Sanders Coronavirus coronavirus relief COVID-19 COVID-19 relief D.C. essential workers Joe Biden Pandemic Protest rally Service Employees International Union Washington D.C. workers

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