On This Page
Summer Lee is a lifelong resident of the district, growing up in the North Braddock and Swissvale neighborhoods.
As a Pennsylvania state legislator and dedicated organizer, activist, and advocate for social justice, she has fought tirelessly to lift up movements and bring real change to her community. Now, Summer is running for Congress in PA-12 to fight for her community’s chance to build a brighter future.
DEMOCRACY AND VOTING RIGHTS
Throughout our nation’s history, we have never delivered on the promises of democracy. The legacies of slavery and Jim Crow have carried on through voter disenfranchisement, gerrymandering, and voter suppression making the ballot box inaccessible, especially for poor, Black and brown people across the country.
Not only must we end racist voter ID and suppression laws, restore the full power of the Voting Rights Act, and end gerrymandering, but we must go farther and provide every person in our country with the right to vote - from previously incarcerated people to immigrants, everyone deserves a voice in our democracy.
Congress should be making it easier to vote, not harder, that means automatic voter registration, nationwide early and mail voting, federal holidays for election days, and same day voter registration.
Additionally, as long as corporations can funnel billions into elections, our democracy will continue to belong to the highest bidder. Comprehensive campaign finance reform that ends Citizens United and puts campaigns back into the hands of the people is a necessary step to rebuilding our democracy.
Our government’s rules have also failed to fulfill the promise of democracy and it is time we end outdated and arbitrary laws. We must end the filibuster, a tool championed by segregationist Senators to oppose civil rights legislation, that continues to stand in the way of progress today. We must expand the Supreme Court and federal courts so that right-wing extremists cannot strip away our fundamental rights and end lifetime appointments to the highest court in the land. Our democracy has long been broken, but we have the tools to rebuild a more reflective democracy once and for all.
All policymaking must be rooted in a disability justice framework, which recognizes it as inextricable from racial, gender, and economic justice, and means we must work in solidarity across “categories” to build towards collective access. Ableism in our country and its laws have forced disabled people into second-class citizenship. While almost 1 in 4 people in the nation have a disability, disabled people are overrepresented in incarceration, victims of police violence, and poverty.
We must ensure that all disabled people are paid fairly and end the loopholes that allow businesses to pay disabled people sub minimum wages. Additionally, we must expand and reform Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), so that people receiving benefits can actually survive on them and end the punitive regulations that trap disabled people into poverty.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the deep inequities that already exist within our healthcare system–especially for disabled communities. We must not only pass Medicare for All, but ensure that it includes coverage of community-based long term support services as well as massive federal investments in home and community-based services (HCBS) to get hundreds of thousands of disabled people off waiting lists for home care and ensure they have access to the care they and their families need.
We must also ensure that disabled people have access to a quality education - one key way to do that is by increasing funding for the constantly underfunded Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, so disabled students have the resources they need in public schools.
We also must continue to build on laws like the ADA, by passing legislation like the ASAP Act which seeks to make all public transit ADA-compliant and accessible.
ECONOMIC JUSTICE & UNION JOBS
Right now, our economy works for the wealthy few and corporations at the expense of the working poor. Corporate tax breaks, unregulated Wall Street and Big Tech companies, and defunded social services have only reinforced the deep systemic inequalities that we continue to face as a nation. Economic growth has left behind marginalized communities and it’s time we center working people in our economic policies.
That’s why I’ve continued to advocate for legislation that supports a livable wage and aims to close the unnecessary gap between skyrocketing corporate profits and working people’s poverty wages. There is no reason why the people in our community - or in any community - should be unable to afford a home on the wages they earn after working a full-time job.
I am also committed to using the power of the office to support my constituents’ right and ability to unionize because every worker deserves a union.
Our community’s history is the greatest proof you need for the benefits of being in a union and the disadvantages of being kept out of them. Now, we’re witnessing historically low rates of unionization nationwide. We know unions are one of our greatest tools to reduce inequality, raise wages, and support better benefits and job protections, so I’m ready to fight for a robust labor movement that reflects the racial, gender, and industry diversity that a 21st century labor movement demands. That’s why I support the PRO Act - because I believe that every worker deserves a union and it’s time for our laws to protect unions and strengthen workers’ rights to organize.
A critical component of the Green New Deal is its focus on a jobs guarantee, a guaranteed living wage, and strengthening the U.S. labor movement.Transitioning American society to 100% clean and renewable energy will create millions of good-paying union jobs. We have a moral obligation to make that transition to save our planet and ensure that all fossil fuel workers are fully equipped with the skills and training necessary to thrive in a green energy economy. No worker will be left behind.
Every child deserves access to a first-rate, free public education - regardless of their zip code or socioeconomic background. Unfortunately, our funding mechanisms for public education are deeply inequitable, leaving behind working-class communities and communities of color.
Public colleges and universities and vocational programs should be tuition-free and all existing student loan debt should be canceled.
I’m fighting for equitable funding for our schools. That means a fair funding formula that guarantees that children will not be punished for growing up in the “wrong” zip code. I also support universal free pre-kindergarten, including early childcare, and dramatically expanding teacher-training programs with a focus on generating high-quality teachers with cultural competency among an increasingly diverse student population.
On any given day, our region suffers from some of the poorest air quality in the nation. CEOs get wealthy while our community–especially Black and brown communities–experiences higher rates of asthma, cancer and other diseases. Despite these increased health risks, Congress still won’t act with the urgency we need to establish protections against new developments that pose even greater environmental and health risks. As a state representative, I’ve always been vocal in my opposition to fracking and have emphasized the need for sustainable jobs. When there was a fracking proposal in the Mon Valley, we joined with the community to fight back and stopped it in its tracks. The people in our community have been fighting back against fossil fuel corporations’ fracking proposals for decades, and I am proud to continue to stand with them.
In Congress I will fight for a Green New Deal to transition to a 100% clean and renewable energy economy. This includes ending fracking, which poses a disproportionate threat to communities like ours. The Green New Deal centers frontline and marginalized communities facing the brunt of environmental racism - communities with poisoned water, high rates of asthma, etc - communities like ours.
I believe everyone deserves clean air and safe drinking water. That’s why I’m focused on fully funding the replacement of all lead water lines. It is unconscionable that anyone in America wouldn’t have access to clean water. We can and must guarantee clean water for all. We have the financial resources to make it happen.
Like communities across the country, Western Pennsylvania is facing a gun violence epidemic. We need an assault weapons ban, expanded background checks, end protections for corporate gun manufacturers and bold gun-safety legislation to stop the mass shootings that have become all too common across schools, churches, stores and cities across America. But in communities like ours, gun violence even more often means the widespread violence that happens in our streets with handguns. That violence is rooted in poverty, rooted in communities that have gone underfunded and ignored for too long. We need an investment in our schools, after-school programs, and wrap-around services. We need an investment in jobs and higher wages, so people have a choice in shaping their future. Gun violence cannot be addressed in isolation, it’s rooted in every social service funding we cut and must be combatted at that level too.
No human being is illegal. Our immigration system is a broken web of xenophobic policies that seek to punish brown and Black people instead of building pathways to citizenship.
We need to restore humanity in our immigration system by ending the separation of families and reversing roadblocks for asylum-seekers and refugees. Millions of undocumented immigrants, from Dreamers to people with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), deserve a pathway to citizenship because their home is here.
Right now, our immigration system is built like our broken criminal legal system - it is punitive, relies on private prisons for detention, has built up an over-militarized border, and has turned ICE into a violent policing agency. All of that must end for us to prioritize the people getting lost, abused, and deported by our current immigration system.
Mass incarceration is the antithesis of building stronger families and communities in this district. The existing criminal and juvenile justice systems are among the biggest barriers to social justice and upward mobility and yet taxpayers foot the bill. America spends more on prisons than education. This spending comes at the expense of other social services that Pennsylvanians rely on, including Medicaid. It’s time for a shift from investing in ineffective, punitive systems to investing in our future.
I am committed to ending the school to-prison pipeline. Our schools should be safe spaces for all students to learn and grow. Our current model of referring children to armed law enforcement on campus and prosecuting them for schoolyard infractions feeds children into the prison industrial complex and limits their future prospects. Instead of defaulting to suspension, expulsion, and incarceration, we must implement more restorative and effective practices.
I am opposed to mandatory minimum sentencing laws. The strategy behind the “War on Drugs” is an unmitigated failure that has only torn families and communities apart. Mandatory minimums disproportionately affect Black and poor communities, and hinder efforts to combat the opioid crisis in our communities today. Our family members, friends, and neighbors who suffer from addiction don’t need harsh prison sentences; they need affordable and accessible medical care.
We must also end the numerous inhumane practices across our justice system. That means eliminating cash bail because our current system, which imprisons people based on their ability to pay, is a barbaric relic that punishes the poor for their poverty. Additionally, we must abolish the death penalty and life without parole–the state should not have the power to end someone’s life or sentence them to death by incarceration.
The struggle for LGBTQ+ rights is among the defining civil rights issues of our time. Congress must pass the Equality Act to provide long overdue federal protections for LGBTQ+ people and their families. Right now there are no federal standards to prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in health care, housing, employment, etc. Beyond these fundamental protections, we must focus on meaningful representation for the LGBTQ+ community in politics, ward off a right-wing Supreme Court that could poke holes in LGBTQ rights based on “religious liberty,” and address the many disparities that the LGBTQ+ community faces in affordable, inclusive health care.
MEDICARE FOR ALL
I continue to believe that healthcare is a fundamental human right. No one in this country should fear losing coverage because of preexisting conditions, their employment status, their immigration status, daring to start their own business, or aging off of their parent’s insurance. Our healthcare system is fundamentally broken. Medicare For All wouldn’t just save money, it would save lives.
Medicare for All would eliminate fees and expand coverage, which means no one has to live in fear of bankruptcy in the event of a medical emergency or even just seeking preventative care. No more copays, deductibles and premiums. It would include not just medical, but also vision, dental, reproductive, mental health, and long-term care coverage. In too many cities like ours, we see mental health care and addiction crises criminalized through mass incarceration instead of supported in our healthcare system–Medicare for All would ensure a federal investment in mental healthcare and addiction services at the scale our communities need. Medicare for All will also lower prescription drug prices by allowing the government to negotiate drug prices and allowing consumers to buy directly from cheaper markets, forcing Big Pharma back to the negotiating table.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only further exposed the inequities in our healthcare system. Black, brown, and indigineous adults are more likely to be uninsured than the national average. At the same time, Black people have higher maternal mortality, infant mortality, asthma rates among kids, and are more likely to die from cancer than anyone else. For marginalized communities, access to healthcare is a decision between life and death.
REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH, RIGHTS, & JUSTICE
The right-wing extremists on the Supreme Court have gutted our constitutional right to abortion care, and Congress must do everything in its power to protect this fundamental right. In Pennysvlania, the only thing protecting our access to abortion care from the Republican extremists in the state legislature is a Democratic governor’s veto. We cannot rely on a patchwork of state-level rights that are consistently under threat, we need to protect reproductive rights at the federal level. And Congress must not only safeguard the federal right to abortion, but also repeal laws like the Hyde amendment which puts care out of reach for marginalized and low-income communities and end the criminaization of abortion at the federal level. We must actively pursue legislation that codifies our abortion rights and makes reproductive health care more accessible like the Women’s Health Protection Act and the EACH Act and end the filibuster to ensure an outdated Senate rule doesn’t stand in the way of protecting our rights.
Additionally, if we want to ensure the right-wing Supreme Court cannot further roll back our fundamental freedoms and rights, we must expand the Supreme Court and end lifetime appointments for unelected justices to the highest court of the land.
Make no mistake, abortion bans and attempts to chip away our reproductive rights are attacks that fall hardest on the most marginalized Black and brown communities that already lack necessary access to care. Right now the maternal mortality rate for Black women is four times higher than it is for white women. Members of the LGBTQ+ community - particularly trans women of color and non-binary people - also experience major disparities in sexual and reproductive health care and worse health outcomes overall. We need to address these inequities in healthcare access and outcomes to ensure that all people have access to safe, inclusive, and affordable health care, as is their human right.