Hand placing a piece of pager into a clear ballot box in front of the United States flag

Poor People's Campaign rallies in D.C. ahead of election

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Brett Peveto

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(Maryland News Connection) With chants of "We are the swing vote," poor and low-wage workers gathered in Washington, D.C., recently to rally and strategize ahead of the election.

The Poor People's Campaign describes itself as "a national call for moral revival," and advocates for a so-called "Third Reconstruction" which would address the crisis of poverty. Leaders cited research showing poverty is the fourth-leading cause of death nationwide.

Pile of red, white, and blue lapel pins with the word "Vote"

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William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign, said with more than 140 million poor and low-wage workers in the nation, empowering the group to vote is critical.

"Poor people make up 30 percent of the electorate now, 40 percent in every battleground state," Barber pointed out. "Poor people and low-wage workers are the largest swing vote in the country. Every state where the margin of victory was within 3 percent, poor and low-wage voters make up over 43 percent of the electorate."

The Campaign estimated low-income Marylanders account for about 21 percent of the electorate.

The rally included religious leaders, workers, and representatives of organized labor from across the nation. The Campaign believes all workers should have the right to join unions and receive equal pay for equal work. Unfair pay was highlighted by members of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA.

London Lester, a flight attendant for PSA Airlines and a member of the union, said the big carriers use subsidiaries to avoid paying fair wages.

"Most of you probably don't recognize my airline, PSA, when you fly. We fly the smaller planes under the American Eagle brand, and we're owned by American Airlines," Lester pointed out. "We wear the same uniforms, we do the same work but our corporate bosses have created 'tiers' between regional and mainline, so that they can pay a huge part of the workforce poverty wages."

While Maryland has raised the state minimum wage to $15 an hour, the living wage in the state is estimated to be $24 an hour for one person, and nearly $42 an hour for an adult with one child.