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A woman at the We Can't Wait rally on June 24, 2021

A woman shouts as she marches during Thursday's "We Can't Wait" rally on June 24, 2021 in Washington, D.C. The activists gathered to call upon the Biden administration and Congress to act on citizenship for all, climate justice, care, and good jobs. (Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

'We Can't Wait': Thousands in DC Demand Bold Action on Climate, Immigration, and Jobs

"All of us have got to stand together and tell the billionaire class that our time is now," said Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Julia Conley

Led by a coalition of immigrant rights, labor, and climate justice groups, thousands of people marched on Washington Thursday to demand that Congress pass far-reaching pandemic recovery legislation for the entire country, particularly those hit by poverty, unemployment, and economic hardship.

Demonstrators carried signs reading "We Can't Wait for Jobs" and "We Can't Wait for Citizenship" at the rally organized by the Center for Popular Democracy, Unemployed Action, Make the Road, and other national groups that are calling on lawmakers "to act quickly and boldly to enact transformative changes for an equitable economy," according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), which released a report on the need to overhaul the unemployment system to coincide with the day of action.

"It's a beautiful day for us to remind everyone in Congress that the real power in Washington comes from the people."
—Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.)

 
Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) were among those who spoke at the "We Can't Wait" rally on Capitol Hill, calling for an end to the filibuster and "strong legislation as part of the budget reconciliation process to meet the urgent needs of immigrants and excluded and unemployed workers," as CPD Action, the political action arm of the Center for Popular Democracy, said on social media.
 
"All of us have got to stand together and tell the billionaire class that our time is now," said Sanders. "We won't wait!"
 
"The Biden administration has made bold commitments to deliver on progressive issues," said CPD Action. "Despite the introduction of legislation to provide a path to citizenship for all, massive proposed investments in green infrastructure and the care economy, and a commitment to putting the American people back to work in jobs that pay a family sustaining wage as a critical step towards economic recovery, immigrants and excluded workers have yet to feel any relief or recovery after bearing the brunt of maintaining critical food, care, and health infrastructure throughout the pandemic."
 
The Republican Party's use of the filibuster this week stopped the Democrats from passing the For the People Act, a voting rights package aimed at ending voter suppression, and advocates called on lawmakers not to allow the same thing to happen with pandemic recovery, immigration, and economic justice legislation.
 
"Our members have no patience for inaction," said immigrant rights group Make the Road New York, outlining demands for citizenship for undocumented immigrants—millions of whom have been essential workers during the pandemic. The group also called for climate action, well-paying union jobs, and investment in a dignified care economy.
 
"This is the way to build back better," the group said.
 
Advocates called on Democratic lawmakers to pass policies for working people as party leaders were discussing the need for a far-reaching reconciliation infrastructure package—including some of the proposals pushed at the We Can't Wait rally—to go along with a less ambitious bipartisan deal that a group of senators reached with the White House Thursday. 
 
"If we don’t go bold, then it’s no deal for me and my fellow progressives in Congress!" said Rep. Chuy Garcia (D-Ill.) at the rally. "Leader McConnell, time's up! Joe Manchin, time’s up! Kyrsten Sinema, time’s up! Joe Biden, time’s up!”
 
The rally came as more than two dozen states cut or planned to cut enhanced unemployment benefits, which were put in place during the coronavirus pandemic and credited with helping to keep millions of Americans out of poverty.
 
In a report released Thursday, EPI joined the advocacy groups' call for federal action to overhaul the unemployment system, under which states are currently incentivized to exclude workers and are given decision-making power regarding the continuation of benefits.
 
The report quoted Sharon Shelton Corpening, a Georgia-based gig worker whose unemployment benefits are set to run out next week and who spoke at the rally. 
 
"Next week, my financial lifeline will be yanked from under me because states like Georgia have too much power to reduce, restrict, or flat out deny benefits that are literally keeping us alive," said Corpening. "Unemployed people—especially Black people in the South who face systemic racism even as jobs return—want and need to work. But this current unstable unemployment insurance system hasn't helped us get on our feet if we can't even count on UI benefits. We need federal protections and we need them now."
 
Progressive leaders at the rally also called on Democrats to pass popular policies including Medicare for All without waiting for Republicans leaders to agree to the legislation or listening to claims that the federal government can't afford to expand the 56-year-old program to all Americans.
 
"How does Congress find the money for these bold reforms? It’s a tired question," said Make the Road New York. "The answer has always been: tax the rich!"
 
"It's a beautiful day for us to remind everyone in Congress that the real power in Washington comes from the people," said Markey.

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