Barber, Poor People’s Campaign call for ‘3rd Reconstruction’ | Tuesday Morning Coffee

May 25, 2021 7:17 am

WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 20: Rev. Dr. William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign speaks during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol May 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. Poor People’s Campaign held the news conference to call for a congressional resolution “to address poverty and low wages.” (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

You might have missed it in all the sound and the fury of last week’s headlines, but during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol, the Rev. Dr. William Barber, the co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, said the answer to the question above is a “Third Reconstruction,” that would prioritize the needs of the nation’s 140 million poor people.

As Isiah Holmes, of our sibling site, the Wisconsin Examinerreports, the sweeping resolution aims to achieve a variety of ambitious goals including expanding voting rights and implementing just immigration reform. It also calls for updating the standards used to measure poverty to reflect what it takes to achieve a decent standard of living; calls for raising the minimum wage; and ensuring paid family and medical leave for all workers.

Finally, it would establish a federal jobs program that prioritizes low income communities and redirects spending on the military and prisons to invest in these policies, Holmes writes.

“This is a moral issue rooted in the commitments of our Constitution that the first thing we had to do is establish justice, promote the general welfare, and to ensure equal protection under the law,” Barber said. He was joined by several elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-California, and Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., who invited their colleagues to co-sponsor the measure.

The COVID-19 pandemic has “exposed the toll of long-standing interlocking inequities stemming from structural racism, poverty, economic inequality, ecological devastation, and many more systemic barriers keeping people living on the edge,” Lee said, noting that,“140 million people are poor, or are one health care crisis, job loss or emergency away from economic devastation. So we must prioritize their needs and allow them, and give them, the opportunities to live in dignity and with hope.”

An SEIU activist rallies for a $15/hr. minimum wage, which was one of the policies that F&M researchers polled in their most recent public opinion survey. (Stephen Melkisethian/Flickr Commons)

Barber, through the Poor People’s Campaign, has connected with Americans living in poverty across the country. Often, he says, racial and political divides break down when people recognize their common struggle. During last week’s news conference, Barber spoke about a white, working-class woman he met in North Carolina, Holmes reported.

“She has struggled for years to make ends meet,” he said. “She told us how one time, she was believing the distortions of religious nationalism. And even white supremacy. But, at the age of 44, she voted for the first time in her life in this last election. She said, ‘I voted for the candidates I heard campaigning on raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and we’re talking about defending workers, dealing with racism, and building from the ground-up.”

In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf and his Democratic allies in the General Assembly have spent the last few years pressing for a $15 minimum wage, up from the current, federally tied wage of $7.25 an hour. Republicans in the General Assembly have steadfastly resisted such a push.

Legislative alternatives, however, are making the roundsSen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, a likely Republican candidate for governor, is sponsoring legislation that would boost the wage to $10 an hour. In the House, Rep. Kevin Boyle, D-Philadelphia, has offered a bill that would allow municipalities to set their own minimum wages.

Democratic lawmakers in the state House and Senate also have rolled out their own plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in federal stimulus money, respectively branding the efforts as a “rescue plan” or a “New Deal” for the commonwealth.

“The ‘New Deal for Pennsylvania’ finds people where they are and provides them a ladder or a path out of despair and into opportunity and prosperity,” Sen. Vincent Hughes of Philadelphia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said during a May 12 news conference unveiling the Senate’s plan.

Barber and his allies, meanwhile, have positioned their latest push as a moral imperative for a nation that holds itself out as a global leader.

The Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, who co-chairs the Poor People’s Campaign with Barber decried “a nation that has the resources to fully address the curse of poverty; a nation that throws away more food than it takes to feed every person and yet food lines continue to grow; a nation that has five empty housing units for every person and family and yet evictions continue to rise.”

“I stand here too aware, too aware, of so many people who have died from poverty and inequality in this, the richest country in the world,” she said, according to the Examiner.

What’s the cost of inequality? For all of us, it’s too entirely too much.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff
The group led by ‘kraken’ lawyer Sidney Powell hired the firm recounting AZ’s election to probe an election in Fulton County in Pennsylvania, Jeremy Duda, of our sibling site, the Arizona Mirror, reports in a story you’re not going to read anywhere else.

Starting July 18, unemployed Pennsylvanians must prove that they’re looking for work to receive jobless benefits, Stephen Caruso reports.

The state currently has no plans for them, but just in case, a state Senate panel has approved a bill banning ‘vaccine passports,’ Marley Parish reports.

Childhood sexual abuse survivors rallied at the Capitol on Monday, where they called on the Republican-controlled state Senate to finally vote on a bill that would give them the expanded right to sue their abusers in civil court, I report.

In a pair of stories, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune take a look at how Philadelphia’s Black police officers are coping in the post-George Floyd era, and they consider whether the city, already wracked by gun violence, will see an uptick in shootings this summer.

In Pittsburgh, a group at Carnegie-Mellon University known as the Trans, Intersex and Nonbinary Alliance is seeking public comment on expanding all-gender bathroom access in Allegheny County.

On our Commentary Page this morning, the Philadelphia Tribune’s Michael Coard considers whether Philadelphia’s Democratic City Committee is a friend or a foe of the city’s Black residents. And despite a federal moratorium, evictions are returning to pre-pandemic levels, two Boise State University experts observe.

(Capital-Star file)

Numerous pregnant workers and new mothers were left out of COVID-19 aid, the Inquirer reports.
The Tribune-Review talks to Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto about his loss in last week’s primary election.
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker, R-11th Districthas been fined $5,000 for breaking security rules at the U.S. Capitol, PennLive reports.
Pennsylvania will release details about wasted vaccinesSpotlight PA reports.
Local gym owners in Luzerne County are leaving it to members to decide if they want to wear masks, the Citizens’ Voice reports.
A recount is being sought in a tight district judge race in York County, the York Daily Record reports (paywall).

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day.


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New Jersey has become the last state in the region to drop its mask mandate, WHYY-FM reports.
Students at Erie’s new community college will have access to county libraries, GoErie reports (paywall).
Allegheny County attorney Jason Richey has launched a GOP bid for governor in 2022PoliticsPA reports.
The pool of pro-Trump election critics who are running for office is growingTalking Points Memo reports.

What Goes On.
The House comes in at 11 a.m, the Senate reconvenes at 1 p.m. As always, here’s a look at the day’s committee and event action.
9:30 a.m, Room 515, Irvis North: House Health Committee
9:30 a.m., Hearing Room 1, North Office Building: Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs and Local Government committees
9:30 a.m,  Room 523 Irvis North: House Urban Affairs Committee
10 a.m., Senate Chamber: Senate Finance Committee
10 a.m., 205 Ryan: House Consumer Affairs Committee
10 a.m, 140 Main Capitol: House Judiciary Committee
10:30 a.m, B31 Main Capitol: House State Government Committee
10:30 am. Senate Chamber: Senate Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure Committee
10:30 a.m., Capitol Fountain: Women’s Health Caucus on defending reproductive rights
11 a.m.: Capitol Steps: The Legislative Black Caucus marks the anniversary of George Floyd’s death, and will call for more police reforms
11:30 a.m., Hearing Room 1, North Office Building: Senate Judiciary Committee
11:30 a.m, Senate Chamber: Senate Transportation Committee
12:30 p.m., Senate Chamber: Senate State Government Committee
Off the Floor, Senate Chamber: Senate Appropriations Committee
Off the Floor, Senate Chamber: Rules & Executive Nominations Committee
Call of the Chair, 140 Main Capitol: House Appropriations Committee

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
7:30 a.m.: Reception for Rep. Rob Kauffman
8 a.m.:
 Breakfast for Rep. Joe Ciresi
8 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Rep. Perry Stambaugh
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Mary Joe Daley
8 a.m.:
 Breakfast for Rep. Todd Polinchock
8 a.m.:
 Breakfast for Rep. Zach Mako
8 a.m:
 Breakfast for Rep. Bob Merski
8 a.m:
 Breakfast for Rep. Seth Grove
8 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Sen. Amanda Cappelletti
10 a.m.:
 Reception for Rep. Jim Cox
5:30 p.m.:
 Reception for Rep. Nick Pisciottano
5:30 p.m.
: Reception for Rep. Ryan Bizzaro
6 p.m.: 
Reception for Rep. Barry Jozwiak
Ride the circuit, and give at the max today, and you’re out an utterly offensive $26,000 today.

Gov. Tom Wolf 
has no public schedule today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Have a birthday you’d like observed in this space? Email me at [email protected].

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s one from The English Beat guaranteed to get you dancing around the office. It’s ‘Save it For Later.’

Tuesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
Toronto took a two games to one lead over Montreal in their North Division playoff series on Monday. In a nice bit of symmetry, the ‘Leafs also beat the Habs 2-1 at Centre Bell. 

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.