Poor People's Campaign

Contact: Martha Waggoner, [email protected]

The U.S. House of Representatives must hold the line on the infrastructure bill in order to expand and protect voting rights, pass a federal minimum wage of $15 an hour and end the coward’s filibuster. That was the message that a delegation from the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival brought to  Speaker Nancy Pelosi during a meeting Wednesday. 

The delegation of over 20 impacted people, poor and low-wealth people, voting rights lawyers and religious leaders met with Speaker Pelosi for about an hour Wednesday, with all saying this is a time of moral crisis in America and the House of Representative must hold the line, fight hard and not allow the filibuster to be used a modern-day form of interposition and nullification. 

Speaker Pelosi then joined a news conference, where the delegation said it was imperative to save democracy from the clutches of extremism by ending the coward’s filibuster; fully restoring the 1965 Voting Rights Act; passing the full For the People Act and increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. 

“The only time I hear the word filibuster is if it’s against me or against the American people,” said Pam Garrison, a tri-chair of the West Virginia Poor People’s Campaign. “I want a $15 minimum wage. I have worked my whole life. I’m not lazy. But I am poor because of the policies that have been enacted. No one will listen. We’re telling them: We can’t pay rent. We can’t buy a car.”

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, talked about the voter suppression laws passed in some states and making their way through others. 

“What we are seeing in these states is a form of political policy insurrection because they lost the insurrection on Jan. 6.,” Rev. Barber said at the news conference. “We said to the speaker that we must hold the line. What doth it profit America if you gain infrastructure and an economic bill but you lose the infrastructure of the democracy, which is voting rights, which must be the Voting Act restoration and the For the People Act. What doth it profit America if you build roads and bridges and infrastructure and technology, but people lose the infrastructure of their daily lives, which is living wages.”

Speaker Pelosi said she hopes “that we can make sure that we have success in saving our democracy, which I do believe is at risk in terms of the legislation that is being passed across the country now,” she said. 

The extreme actions undermining democracy make you wonder “how they think they can get away with it,” she said. “Well, we cannot let them get away with it.” 

Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, said the country is “witnessing the largest attack on our democracy since the first reconstruction after the Civil War. And what we know is that that attack on our democracy impacts the 140 million people who are poor or one health care crisis, one job loss, one emergency away from economic ruin the most.” 

Denita Jones, a tri-chair of the Texas Poor People’s Campaign, said Congress needs to listen to the people. 

We’re struggling. We’re tired,” she said. “They want it to think it’s just the Black people complaining. It’s not. Because there were races of all of us, for three days, marching from Georgetown to Austin. And I can tell you that as one of them, I didn’t march to sit on my ass. I marched because you need to know what’s happening in the states, not what they’re telling you. You need to hear from people what is going on. … Do your job: hold the line.” 

LaTosha Brown, a co-founder of Black Voters Matter, pointed out that voters came out in record numbers in 2020. 

“And as a result of that, what we’re seeing is a backlash where we’re being punished because people actually participated in this democracy,” she said. “Speaker Pelosi: We want you to use the power the people gave you. And we’re assuring her that we want you to hold the line on this infrastructure. We can’t talk about a physical infrastructure in this country and we allow the democratic, the political infrastructure to collapse so because of that, we want you to hold the line. And if you hold the line inside the House, we got you in the streets.”

Voting rights attorney Caitlin Swain, co-director of Forward Justice, said people in North Carolina have learned that “when you keep faith with the people, when you hold the line, we will win. We will not just win against the backlash. We will expand the we in ‘we the people’ and generationally change our democracy for generations to come.”

But federal standards are needed, she said. 

“We’ve been filing litigation in every state that we can,” she said. “But we cannot fight against what is coming at us without federal intervention. “

In addition to those who spoke at the news conference, those who joined the meeting in person were:  Barbara Arnwine, president and founder, Transformative Justice Coalition; Rev. Kazimir Brown, co-lead, national faith team, PPC:NCMR and national director of religious affairs, Repairers of the Breach and Rev. Mark Thompson, Make it Plain. 

Those who joined the meeting remotely were: Shailly Gupta Barnes, policy director, PPC:NCMR, Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice; Roz Pelles, strategic adviser, PPC:NCMR and vice president, Repairers of the Breach; Dr. Jim Winkler, president and general secretary, National Council of Churches (includes more than 38 denominations); Rev. Terri Hord Owens, general minister and president, Christian Church (Disciplines of Christ); Dr. Alvin Jackson, PPC:NCMR; Dr. Adam Barnes, co-lead, national faith team, PPC:NCMR and religious coordinator, Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice; Rabbi Jonah Pesner, director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; Rev. Abhi Janamanchi, Unitarian Universalists; Vanessa Nosie, Apache Stronghold; Bishop Mariann Budde, Episcopal Church; Cliff Albright, co-director, Black Voters Matter; Bishop Seth Lartey, AME Zion Church; Virginia Case Solomon, CEO, League of Women Voters; Dr. William Datcher, Social Action Commission of the National Baptist Convention USA; Rev. Dr. Gina Stewart, Progressive Baptist President, Lott Carey Convention; Tony Eskridge, Kairos Center and Sarah Courtney, League of Women Voters.