Our nation has slowly, but steadily recovered from the recession, but more can be done to help American families still facing unemployment. Congress should take action to increase the minimum wage, extend emergency unemployment insurance, and finally focus on legislation that will create jobs – the real priorities of the American people.
Ensuring Everyone Gets a Fair Shot
Economic inequality has reached a point we have not seen since the 1920s, making it ever more difficult for hardworking Americans to get ahead. We must help these families now by giving them the tools they need to succeed and enacting policies that will expand job creation. In today’s economy, the rich are getting richer, the middle class is shrinking, and the poor are getting poorer. Parents today are working two and three jobs and still struggling to make ends meet. We can do better for hardworking Americans.
Raise the Wage Act
With many states enacting minimum wage increases, wages grew 3.2 percent in 2018, a positive trend that I will continue to push for on the federal level in Congress. To further the goal of improving the employment situation for millions of Americans, I supported H.R. 582, the Raise the Wage Act of 2019 by becoming an original cosponsor of the legislation, sponsored by Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott. The bill would correct the 40 years of wage stagnation for the federal minimum wage, gradually lifting it from $7.25 to $15 over the next 6 years. Since the last increase in 2009, the purchasing power of the minimum wage has declined by more than 15 percent due to inflation. The bill would index future increases in the federal minimum wage to median wage growth to make sure that over time the value of the minimum wage does not erode, as it has in the past. ensure the value of minimum wage does not once again erode over time.
In 2017, the Economic Policy Institute estimated that raising the minimum wage to $15 would increase wages for around 40 million people, or 30 percent of the workforce. This change would be an important step toward lifting a large segment of society out of poverty and creating opportunities for their children to see a brighter future.
The U.S. economy added 129,000 private sector jobs in March 2019, which followed a gain of 183,000 private sector jobs in February. This marks the slowest jobs increase in 18 months. The unemployment rate fell to 3.7 percent in September 2018, which represents the lowest it has been since 1969. In March 2019 the rate was 3.8 percent.
Despite these gains, a lot of work remains before we can confidently say that our nation is back on the path to prosperity and growth. Despite increased hiring, African American workers remain unemployed at 6.7 percent, nearly twice the rate of the overall U.S. jobless rate of 3.8 percent. Furthermore, we must consider the type of employment being secured and whether those jobs are moving families out of poverty or merely keeping them afloat. Those in our communities who are working part-time or are otherwise "underemployed," as well as those who have been without a job so long that they have stopped searching, are not even counted in the national unemployment estimates.
Paycheck Fairness Act
More than 55 years after the 1963 Equal Pay Act became law, women still face a substantial gender-based wage gap in just about every industry and within all education levels. The causes of this gap are not simple, but the unacceptable fact is that women in the United States today who work full-time are paid 80 cents for every dollar paid to men. This disparity is even worse for women of color. I was honored to cosponsor H.R. 7, the Paycheck Fairness Act that would require employers to prove there are legitimate, job-related reasons for any pay disparities that exist and are not based on gender alone; ban retaliation against workers discussing their wages; remove obstacles in the Equal Pay Act to allow workers to participate in class action lawsuits that challenge systemic pay discrimination; and improve the Department of Labor’s tools for enforcing the Equal Pay Act. I am pleased to share that this legislation passed the House.
Government Shutown Protections
Press reports during the recent shutdown indicated that federal employees had difficulty obtaining health insurance coverage for their newborns because some agencies were not processing new enrollments or changes to enrollments. There were also reports of employees possibly losing coverage if they did not pay their premiums for dental, vision, and long-term care insurance because coverage would continue only for two or three pay periods, after which insurers would start billing employees directly.
For these reasons, I introduced the H.R. 2003, the Ensuring FEHBP Coverage During Shutdowns Act, which would ensure that employees who experience a qualifying life event—such as the birth or adoption of a child—could immediately enroll their dependents into a Federal Employee Health Benefits Program plan even if the government is shut down.
I also introduced H.R. 2004, the Ensuring FEDVIP and FLTCIP Coverage During Shutdowns Act, which would ensure that employees’ dental and vision benefits and their long-term care insurance coverage would continue during any period the government is shut down.
Federal Employee Pay Increase
I am proud to be an original cosponsor of H.R. 790, the Federal Civilian Workforce Pay Raise Fairness Act of 2019. The bill, which passed the House on January 30, 2019, would authorize a 2.6 percent pay raise for federal civilian workers for 2019—the same raise that our military service members are receiving this year.
The men and women of our civil service deserve this same increase in pay because they have endured so much during the last several years. They have suffered through pay freezes, hiring freezes, higher pension costs, and furloughs due to sequestration and government shutdowns.
Since 2011, federal workers have contributed nearly $200 billion to help reduce our country’s deficit and to fund other government programs. These hardworking, dedicated federal workers include the 800,000 employees who were furloughed or forced to work without pay for 35 days during the longest shutdown in our great nation’s history.
Given all the hardship federal employees have experienced, they deserve a modest pay increase to help make up for the years of freezes and negligible increases and to help offset the cost of inflation.
The pay increase also would help the federal government compete against the private sector to recruit and retain highly qualified candidates to serve the American people.
As Chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, I will continue to advocate on behalf of federal employees.
More on Economy
Washington, D.C. (May 23, 2019) – Today, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (MD-07) issued the following statement after the introduction of the Parren Mitchell Minority Business Education and Empowerment Act of 2019:
Washington, DC (May 7, 2019) - Representative Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), Representative John Katko (R-NY), and U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), the authors of the Harriet Tubman Tribute Act of 2019, issued the following statement:
Washington, DC (February 5, 2019)—Today, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (MD-07) issued the following statement in response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address:
“Tonight, President Trump tried to strike a reconciliatory note that has not been supported by his actions. He called on Democrats and Republicans to work together in a bipartisan manner, but over the past two years, he has sown division and demanded that he get exactly what he wants.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and Congressmen Steny Hoyer, Elijah Cummings, Dutch Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes (All D-Md.) met Wednesday evening with General Motors Chair and CEO Mary Barra in an effort to gain clarity and reverse the decision to close the GM facility at White Marsh. The lawmakers released the following joint statement on the meeting:
(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, along with Congressmen Elijah Cummings, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes and Jamie Raskin (all D-MD) have sent a letter to General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Teresa Barra requesting a meeting to discuss the company’s decision to terminate operations at its White Marsh facility, calling it an “example of extremely poor corporate citizenship.”
The congressman who could become President Donald Trump’s recurring political nightmare has photos on his office walls of himself with anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, pathbreaking boxer Muhammad Ali and civil rights activist Coretta Scott King.
Each were fighters of a sort, and Rep. Elijah Cummings says he is, too. The Baltimore Democrat’s battles usually involve pushing back as best he can on Trump administration policies and practices.
Washington, D.C. (September 4, 2018) — Today, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, sent a letter to K.
Washington, D.C. (Apr. 4, 2017)—Today, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) joined Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) to introduce the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 by allowing women to challenge pay discrimination and hold employers accountable. U.S. Senator Patty Murray introduced the companion legislation in the Senate.