Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., held a hearing at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday afternoon that focused on issues raised by the Poor People’s Campaign, including economic inequality, union rights and voter suppression.
Massachusetts is one of 35 states where protesters have engaged for five weeks in civil disobedience, joining events to demand paid-leave legislation and a $15 minimum wage.
According to Sara Anderson, who directs the Global Economy Program at the Institute for Policy Studies, many elected officials have been moved by Warren and inspired by the Poor People’s “bottom-up” movement.
“They’re just really grateful that Sen. Warren has created a space in the U.S. Capitol building where people who are poor – people who are teachers, who are struggling to cover their basic needs and others, really, from the grassroots – tell their stories,” Anderson said.
When people hear about poverty in America, she said, they might think about states such as Alabama, Mississippi and West Virginia, but Massachusetts also has problems with poverty and inequality. The state has the sixth-highest number of homeless people in the country, and 43 percent of the population is either low-income or poor.
One million workers, or 2 percent of the state’s workforce, earn less than $15 an hour. More than 85,000 veterans have incomes below $35,000; that’s one in five of the state’s veteran population. More than 379,000 people are without health insurance.
Anderson described Warren as a longtime champion of those who are taken advantage of by “rigged rules” in the system that benefit wealthy investors.
“It’s no surprise that she has created this opportunity to really lift up the voices who are most affected, who really bear the brunt of those rigged rules,” Anderson said.
Raise Up Massachusetts, with the Poor People’s Campaign, will join retail and grocery workers at Downtown Crossing in Boston today in their fight for fair pay. On Saturday, Warren will host a town hall in Newburyport, taking audience questions on her work in support of working families.