Workers Tell Banking Committee Chair Sherrod Brown ‘We Need Help’

Desiree Jackson told of being fired from her call-center job when recuperating from carpal tunnel syndrome. Chase Copridge said he’s living in his van as he spends all his time working or searching for driving and delivery jobs. Shawn Williams said he and other grocery workers lost vacation and other benefits after their company changed hands. And Melody Crawford found herself without health insurance during the pandemic after abruptly losing her job when Art Van Furniture folded.

These were among the stories of hardship told at a congressional panel as workers pleaded for changes in the law that would protect them.

“We’re not surviving anymore,” Pamela Garrison, a member of the Poor People’s Campaign, told Senator Sherrod Brown, chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, at a virtual panel he hosted Tuesday. “Working poor should not be two words that go together.”

“We need help,” she told Brown.

The Senator said he’s pushing for changes in overtime rules and “not giving up” on the $15 minimum. “We’ve got to fix labor law.”

The experiences of those who spoke encapsulate the struggles of front-line workers and the battles over how to protect them after the ravages of the pandemic. President Joe Biden has made labor issues a cornerstone of his platform, including the unsuccessful effort to include a national $15 minimum wage as part of the recently passed relief package. He did mandate a $15 hourly floor for federal contractors this week, and is creating a task force to boost unions, but Garrison said Democratic leaders ignored workers’ plight for years.

The session was a prelude to a “Dignity of Work” hearing the committee has scheduled for Thursday.

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