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Obama Greets Pope, Poor Workers Hope For Help

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Obama Greets Pope, Poor Workers Hope For Help
Obama Greets Pope, Poor Workers Hope For Help

Pope Francis arrived in Washington Tuesday, launching his much anticipated visit to the United States. Ahead of the pope's meeting at the White House and his speech to Congress, low-wage contract workers who cook and clean for U.S. lawmakers walked off their jobs at the U.S. Capitol, asking for a $15 minimum wage and a union. Some of the workers say they are pinning their hopes on a letter they are sending "the Pope of the Poor."

As Pope Francis' airplane approached, President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and their family were on hand at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington to welcome the head of the Roman Catholic Church to the United States.

A crowd of 1,000 selected ticket holders gave the pontiff an enthusiastic welcome.

Earlier Tuesday, hundreds of low-wage workers at the U.S. Capitol walked off their jobs and rallied at a nearby Catholic church. They said they may be invisible to the powerful lawmakers they serve every day, but they know they deserve a better life. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was at the church to support them.

"Today as we welcome Pope Francis to the United States and the U.S. Capitol, I hope that every member of Congress and the president will heed his call for social and economic justice," said Sanders.

One of the service workers is struggling, even though he has a job in the Senate cafeteria.

'Homeless and sleeping on the street, you know, every day you know, I was literally on the streets because I wasn't making any money. I didn't have a livable wage, you know and like I said, the few dollars I did make in order for me to keep my hygiene up because I work in food service,' said Charles Gladden, a Senate cafeteria worker.

Gladden said this pope gives him new hope.

'I'm saying he's more adamant about speaking about the low-income people, speaking about social injustice - he speaks about the necessary things that touch the little man," said Gladden.

Sontia Bailey, one of Gladden's colleagues, said she works two jobs - 70 hours a week - and that tough schedule likely caused her to lose her son at his birth. She hopes lawmakers listen to the pope's message.

"Hopefully they find deep down inside that we have got to pay our workers living wages - nobody should have to suffer or go through what I've been through," said Bailey.

Inside the Capitol, Republican Senator John Thune said Pope Francis may have some different opinions on economics.

"We hope there are some things he can take away from visiting our country for the first time: recognizing that free enterprise is the greatest antipoverty force that the world has ever seen," said Thune.

There is no word on whether Pope Francis will directly respond to the Capitol workers' letter, but he is expected to address the issue of income inequality when he speaks to Congress Thursday.

教宗方济各星期二抵达美国首都华盛顿,开始对美国进行备受期待的访问。教宗在白宫会晤并在国会发表演讲之前,负责为美国议员做饭和清扫的低薪合同工到国会山举行罢工,要求得到15美元的最低工资以及组织工会。一些合同工表示,他们把希望寄托在一封给这位被誉为"穷人的教宗"的信函上。

教宗方济各的飞机在安德鲁斯空军基地机场降落时,受到奥巴马总统、第一夫人米歇尔和两个女儿以及1,000名经过挑选的群众的热烈欢迎。

星期二早些时候,美国国会数百名低薪合同工举行罢工,并且在附近一个天主教会集会。他们表示,他们每天服侍的这些有权势的国会议员可能对他们视若无睹,但是,他们知道自己有权利享受更好的生活。民主党总统参选人桑德斯也在这个教会表示声援。

桑德斯说:"今天,我们欢迎教宗方济各到访美国和美国国会。我盼望每个国会议员和总统都重视他提出的要求社会和经济正义的呼声。"

服务人员查尔斯·格拉登虽然在参议院的餐厅工作,但是生活得非常困难。这名合同工说:

"我无家可归,每天都睡在大街上,因为我挣不到什么钱。我的薪水无法维持生计。我每小时挣几块钱,只够保持个人的清洁,因为我负责餐饮。"

格拉登说,这位教宗给他带来新的希望。他说: "他更坚定地为低薪人群发声并反对社会不公义,他谈到有必要为普通百姓谋利。"

格拉登的一位同事贝利是国会山餐厅收银员。她说,她打两份工,每星期工作70小时,她的儿子之所以一出生就夭折,很可能是因为她怀孕期间工作太紧张。她希望议员们能倾听教宗的信息。

贝利说: "我盼望他们能从内心认识到要给工人基本生活工资。谁都不应该遭遇我所承受的痛苦。"

在国会山,共和党参议员图恩表示,教宗方济各对经济问题可能持不同观点。

图恩说:"我们希望,他对我们国家的首次访问能有所收获,认识到自由企业是迄今全球消除贫困的最大力量。"

目前还没有关于教宗是否会对国会合同工的信函作出直接回应的消息。但预计,他星期四在国会发表讲话时将会谈到收入不平等的问题。

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