Washington Jewish Week: Mizeur: I learned my values on the picket line
Op-ed by Heather Mizeur in the Washington Jewish Times.
In 1981, I was 9 years old and Ronald Reagan had just become president. My dad was a welder at a Caterpillar plant and a member of the United Auto Workers, but he and his union co-workers went on strike because they weren’t making fair wages. For six months my family made ends meet on $45 a week strike pay. But the stand paid off after my dad and his union negotiated a pay raise. I learned my Democratic values walking those picket lines with my dad, watching him work with his co-workers to get what was fair for my family.
In high school, I spent summers working as a farmhand, de-tasseling corn to save for college. As my family struggled financially, big powerful interests were just starting to really rig the game. Over the past three decades, corporate profits have skyrocketed and wages have remained flat. The wealthy have made more and more while working and middle-class families like those I grew up with have struggled more and more.
Like our federal government, Annapolis has lost its way. Even with Democrats in power, our state government has tax loopholes for giant corporations. The middle-class tax increases of the past eight years have been tough on families and seniors across the state, but what makes them especially tough to swallow are the tax cuts that have been handed to the wealthy at the very same time. Maryland’s tax burden now rests squarely on the shoulders of those who can least afford it.
As a legislator, I worked with some of my colleagues in the General Assembly to introduce legislation to address flat wages. But the current administration waited until an election year – after 14 states acted – to make raising the minimum wage a priority. Workers and their families will never get those lost wages back.
Without a champion in Annapolis, the middle class is struggling: child-care costs eating up entire paychecks, rising utility bills, skyrocketing housing costs and increased tax burdens. It’s getting harder and harder to meet the basic necessities.
Democrats need to stop talking about the shrinking middle class just to turn around and cater to special interests. Getting what’s fair takes more than words – it takes action. That’s why I’m running for governor. It’s time for results.
Here’s how I’ll rebuild our middle class: I’ll cut taxes for 90 percent of families and seniors, just by asking the wealthiest amongst us to pay their fair share. I’ll close those corporate loopholes and put the money right back into our small businesses, giving them the tax relief they need to expand.
I’ll turn our minimum wage into a living wage, because no one should work 40 hours a week and still live in poverty. I’ll put
unemployed Marylanders back to work building modern schools, roads, bridges and transit. I’ll ensure equal pay for equal work by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act, because no gender pay gap is acceptable.
I believe middle-class families should earn more and be taxed less. But I also believe our state has a role to play in making family expenses more affordable. That’s why I’ll expand our child-care subsidy program, increase funding for college need-based financial aid, invest in affordable housing and create a state retirement savings program.
Getting these things done won’t be easy. There’s a reason why our system hasn’t worked for working families since I was a little girl. But what I learned on the picket lines with my dad is still true: When we – as a community – stand together and work for what’s fair, nothing can stop us.