OpEd: The Blue Collar Caucus is Actually Working for Blue-collar Americans
Blue-collar Americans are the backbone of American strength and resilience. In the 1970s, the top one percent of earners made nine percent of the country's income. Today, they make nearly a quarter. Since the recession, CEO pay has soared while workers' wages have remained stagnant, or have at times fallen. All the while, we've watched the slow and steady decline of unions over nearly five decades.
Our inability to correct these trends is one of the greatest policy failures of the 21st century, and America's workers are paying for it. But we, the Blue Collar Caucus, have a real opportunity if Democrats win back the majority to help our Party pave a path forward that makes the American Dream attainable again.
In retrospect, it makes sense that President Trump's economic message appealed to blue collar workers and their families. They rightfully felt like they were forgotten, left behind by a growing economy and by a political system that was prioritizing other issues. Famed businessman Donald J. Trump seemed like he was putting their economic woes front and center.
The problem is, President Trump's focus on America's workers started and ended with his campaign rhetoric. Candidate Trump promised us $500 billion to repair 'America's crumbling infrastructure' and boost our middle class. Instead, President Trump gave us a half-baked plan devoting less than half that money to the issue, with no follow through.
He promised to punish companies who offshored their jobs, but instead awarded these same employers with billions in new federal contracts and actually encouraged greater offshoring in his tax legislation. He promised to protect our mining and manufacturing workers, but instead removed labor protections and safety measures. And while he boasted about raising worker wages, they have declined across the country, including in our home states of Texas and Pennsylvania. President Trump has time and time again failed to deliver for blue collar workers.
The broken promises of the Trump Administration, and the recklessness of the GOP-led Congress, continue to threaten our middle class. The only thing the GOP will ever be able to peddle are their tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent. The Blue Collar Caucus is ready and motivated to get to work for the other 99 percent. With our better deal agenda for the people, and for this country, we are working to increase the minimum wage to a livable wage, and equip workers with the skills and industry-relevant training to prepare them for in-demand jobs.
Now 49 members strong, we are addressing the growing economic strain felt by working families, and reigniting a Democratic platform that champions job growth, economic opportunity, and workers' rights. Spurred by the wake-up call of the 2016 election, we are fighting to reconnect Democrats to their roots with the labor movement, and the labor movement to the Democratic Party.
Boosting America's workers and middle class families is deeply woven into the fabric of the Democratic Party, not a footnote aimed to please big corporations and wealthy donors, as witnessed from Republican leadership in Congress. Choosing businesses over blue-collar workers is a false choice the Republican Party has forced on voters for too long. There is no reason we cannot strengthen American workers and American businesses.
Should Democrats win the House majority this November, the Blue Collar Caucus will strive to deliver an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top. We're going to support and strengthen unions, which study after study has shown are key to promoting wage growth. And, we're going to safeguard and strengthen programs like Social Security that help our middle class stay strong.
Our goal: Empower a thriving middle class where any American, regardless of background or zip code, can find a good job and build a better life for their family. That's what Democrats are fighting for – and the Blue Collar Caucus wants to make sure Democrats have a chance to enact this vision next year.
Brendan Boyle is the United States Representative for Pennsylvania's 13th congressional district.
Marc Veasey is the United States Representative for Texas's 33rd congressional district.