Poor People's Campaign

August 24, 2020

The Poor People’s Campaign continued its pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to pass a fair and just stimulus bill but also criticized the Democrats for emphasizing aid to the middle class instead of calling them poor and low-income workers. 

“The majority of the workers that are essential workers are not middle class,” Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, said Monday during a call with thousands of activists. “They’re poor and low-wealth people. Can’t you say our name?”

Last month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked why Republicans in the Senate are willing to give trillions of dollars to corporations but not give trillions of dollars to “bolster the middle class in our country.”

But 140 million people are poor or low-income in the U.S. — 43% of the country — and that was before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The national Moral Monday March on McConnell was the fourth that the Poor People’s Campaign has held as it pressures the Kentucky senator to allow a vote on a just stimulus bill on the Senate floor and to protect voting rights by, among other things, preventing the GOP-led sabotage of the U.S. Postal Service. 

Hundreds of thousands of people have viewed the Moral Mondays, and thousands have flooded McConnell’s phones at his offices in Washington, D.C., and Kentucky. 

Activists Mickey and Nina McCoy of Inez, Kentucky, also spoke, defending the need to protect the USPS. 

Republicans are trying to dismantle the USPS to suppress the vote, Mickey McCoy said.  

“They don’t want to see the votes. They don’t want the people to come out and vote,” he said. “They don’t want the people to mail in their ballots. They don’t want to get them on time.”

Several speakers addressed the issue of power, including Rev. Jesse Jackson, a civil rights icon and the founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. 

“We are the new majority as a coalition — red, brown, Black and white,” Jackson said. “You have three options when your back is against the wall: you can either adjust, resent and be angry or you can resist. We shall not adjust our situation or resent. We shall resist and we shall fight back. We’ve never lost a battle we’ve fought.” 

Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, quoted Frederick Douglass, who said “power concedes nothing without a demand.”

“We in the Poor People’s Campaign are demanding,” she said. “We’re demanding a full, just relief package. We’re demanding to protect our postal service. We are demanding to protect essential workers. We are demanding to insure the uninsured. We’re demanding that we need living wages and voting rights and all the bounty of this country.”

Mary Kay Henry, president of the 2-million-member Service Employees International Union, said the Moral Monday March on McConnell is a necessity to fight “his meanness toward everyone in this country; the mayhem he’s trying to create that’s going to distract us from saving the post office and making sure we turn out to vote; and the misery that he’s inflicting on all working people and poor people and low income communities by not taking action and doing his job in passing the HEROES Act.”

Earlier this month the Poor People’s Campaign released a study, conducted by a researcher at Columbia University, showing that a small uptick in the number of poor and low-income voters could change the outcome of the presidential election in 15 states and U.S. Senate races in 16 states. 

That shows the importance of acknowledging poor and low-income people and speaking to their issues, Barber said.

“This is not the time for bougie activism,” he said. “This is the time for the real thing.” 

In addition to their roles as co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign, Rev. Barber is president of Repairers of the Breach, based in Goldsboro, North Carolina, and Rev. Theoharis is the director of Kairos: The Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. 

Contact: Martha Waggoner | [email protected]

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, is building a broad and deep moral fusion movement rooted in the leadership of poor people to unite our country from the bottom up. We demand that both major political parties address the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism. Our updated agenda, A Moral Policy Agenda to Heal America: the Poor People’s Jubilee Platform, addresses these issues.