Hours after rallying with striking AT&T workers in Louisville, Kentucky, Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday used his visit to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's home state to blast the Republican for refusing to allow a vote on legislation to raise the minimum wage and turning his back on laid off coal miners protesting over lack of pay.
"If you would like to explain to over half a million workers in Kentucky who are making less than $15 an hour why they do not deserve a living wage, that is your prerogative."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders
"I say to Senator McConnell: Stop worrying about your billionaire friends, they're doing just fine," said Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. "Start worrying about the working families of your state and around this country who are struggling to keep their heads above water."
As Common Dreams reported last month, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed legislation that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, but McConnell signaled he would not even allow the bill to reach the Senate floor for a vote.
Noting that 10 out of the 25 poorest counties in the United States are located in Kentucky, Sanders said McConnell doesn't "have the right to prevent debate and votes on the most important issues facing the working people of this country."
"Workers in Kentucky and America cannot get by on $9 or $10 an hour," said the Vermont senator. "They need a living wage. If you would like to explain to over half a million workers in Kentucky who are making less than $15 an hour why they do not deserve a living wage, that is your prerogative."
"Stop your cowardice," added Sanders, "have the guts to debate the issues."
Sen. @BernieSanders: "I say here in Kentucky to Sen. McConnell--stop blocking legislation from coming to the floor of the Senate... Stop your cowardice. Have the guts to debate the issues." pic.twitter.com/U9a0OzVLRD
— The Hill (@thehill) August 25, 2019
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Sanders' rally comes as laid off coal miners have been blocking train tracks in Cumberland, Kentucky for over three weeks to protest Blackjewel's refusal to pay them after the company went bankrupt last month.
Additionally, a group of retired Kentucky coal miners suffering from black lung traveled to Washington, D.C. last month to meet with McConnell and demand action on legislation to fund their medical care. As Common Dreams reported, the coal miners said McConnell was "rude" during their meeting and brushed off their concerns.
"Coal miners are not my enemy," Sanders said Sunday, detailing the comprehensive Green New Deal proposal his campaign released last week. "Workers in the fossil fuel industry are not my enemy. Climate change is our enemy."
We stand with the coal miners in Harlan County who aren’t receiving a paycheck.
I say to Senator McConnell: Do not turn your back on these communities. Ensure these workers get paid as soon as possible.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) August 25, 2019
Watch Sanders' full speech: