'20 People Control More Wealth Than Half the Population': Trumka Addresses the Democratic Platform Committee

When working people come together in union to create a better life, America thrives.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka addressed the Democratic Platform Drafting Committee this morning detailing the steps we need to take to ensure a bright and prosperous future for America's working people.

Below are his remarks:

A generation of trickle-down economics and wage stagnation has left America in a place where 20 people control more wealth than half the population.

Despite President Obama’s valiant efforts to address runaway inequality, this is the reality our candidates face in 2016.

The Democratic Platform must offer a comprehensive, integrated vision of how we can rewrite the rules to raise wages for all working people and make our government a partner in our hopes for better lives for ourselves and our children.

The key to addressing wage stagnation and the inequality it creates is rebuilding workers’ bargaining power, and that begins with full employment. We must end the job-killing policies of austerity and sequester. There should be a good job in America for everyone who wants one.

To get that, we need to modernize our labor laws and give them teeth, so working people—whether we’re employed at Walmart or Nissan or Uber or in the public sector in Wisconsin or the private sector in Mississippi—have the right to organize and bargain without fear of retaliation. Without that essential freedom, all talk of addressing inequality or wage stagnation will be meaningless.

And we must raise the minimum wage nationally, following the example of California and New York, which are on a path to $15 an hour. And we must end the exclusion of tipped workers.

If we want wages to rise, productivity must rise, too—and that means making America more competitive by investing in our nation’s infrastructure.

Our physical infrastructure is rated a D+ by the American Society of Civil Engineers. We need a 10-year plan to get our current infrastructure back to world-class status and to invest in the infrastructure of the future—universal broadband, high-speed rail and a smart electrical grid. This must be a multitrillion-dollar commitment.

We must also invest in skills and education—from kindergarten through vocational training and college—because we want every person in America to realize his or her full potential.

Our trade policies must serve the interests of American workers and consumers, not global corporations.

The Democratic Party must oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership—because it gives new rights to foreign corporations, fails to address currency manipulation, protects high drug prices and would perpetuate a failed corporate model of trade that has bled jobs and repressed wages for decades.

Our financial system and our tax code must support Main Street jobs and small businesses, not more speculation on Wall Street.

We must end tax breaks for hedge fund billionaires and companies that offshore jobs. We must break up too-big-to-fail banks and separate government-insured commercial banking from the risk-taking of Wall Street.

And just as we have sales tax on the things working people buy, we should have a Wall Street sales tax on trades.

The Democratic Party must oppose any cuts to Social Security or Medicare.

In fact, it’s time to strengthen and expand Social Security and to open Medicare to those under 65 to make the public option real.

We must stop the assault on good employer-provided benefits by repealing the health care excise tax and strengthening the private pension system.

Finally, our economy will not work for all if more than half of our workforce is systematically underpaid and if millions of America’s workers are forced to live in the shadows. We won’t close the gender pay gap until 2058 unless we change the rules. About two-thirds of mothers are family breadwinners, but women still only make 79 cents on the dollar compared to men. Women of color face an even more dramatic pay gap.

We must support comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship, restore voting rights to the formerly incarcerated and end the cycle of biased mandatory sentencing and post-prison discrimination that falls most heavily on communities of color.

The Democratic Party’s vision of America is that we are stronger together, we look after each other and we invest in our future.

This means that the people who do the work and create the wealth of this country should share in the affluence they help create. We envision a future of rising incomes. Of shared prosperity. Of growing opportunity.

The Democratic Platform should be a clear statement of the party’s bold determination to make that vision a reality.