In an expression of a “new populist” energy, thousands of demonstrators shut down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC on Monday as they demanded a livable wage and an end to the corporate domination of the national economy and politics.
Under the banner “Battle for the Capitol,” marchers carried puppets of corporate lobbyists swarming a 10-foot high replica of the Capitol Building as they blasted rising inequality in America and the outsized influence of big money during elections and in the halls of Congress.
The protesters chanted: “Whose streets? Our streets!”
“This is what the New Populist Movement looks like,” tweeted James Mumm of the group National People’s Action, which along with the Restaraunt Opportunities Center and the National Domestic Workers Association, organized the protest.
“We have an unbelievable inequality crisis among communities of color and minimum wage workers,” said Liz Ryan Murray, policy director with NPA, told Common Dreams.
“While our families are suffering from low wages, lack of services and good infrastructure, corporations and the one percent are doing better and better every year,” she continued.
Ryan Murray said that this week Congress is expected to extend tax cuts to corporations worth tens of billions of dollars. “These are straight up corporate giveaways to [General Electric] and others who use the tax code to get out of paying their fair share,” she said, noting that Republicans are planning to put forth a proposal to make these giveaways permanent.
“We know we’re dealing with some highly profitable corporations that could easily afford to pay their workers more,” added Toby Chow, a community organizer with IIRON in Chicago, who traveled to Washington D.C. for the protest. “We also know that [in cities like Chicago] it is not possible to survive on the minimum wage.”
“Really it comes down to alternatives,” Chow continued. “Further fill the coffers of corporations or give hardworking people a chance to survive with dignity. We are here to fight for a new economy that is just and sustainable, that serves all of us—not just a few.”
Groups such as NPA and Fight for 15 are calling for the minimum wage to be increased to at least fifteen dollars an hour. According to Ryan Murray, the NPA is “supportive” of President Obama’s initiative to raise the wage to $10.10, though they said it is “not where we need to be.”
The Senate is expected to vote on the $10.10 minimum wage increase on Wednesday.
The protest comes on the heels of the release of the latest AFL-CIO ‘Executive Paywatch’ report, which found that the average U.S. CEO was paid $11.7 million, or 331 times that of the average worker—a ratio that the report called “unconscionable.”