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Josh Riley has deep roots in Upstate New York and proven experience in Washington. He is running for Congress to give working families a Square Deal.
Josh Riley was born and raised in a working-class neighborhood in Endicott, New York. The four generations that came before him worked in the local factories, making shoes and boots at the Endicott-Johnson Shoe Company and circuit boards in the IBM factories.
Those were good, blue-collar jobs that offered workers a Square Deal: if you work hard, play by the rules, and treat others with decency, then you can share in the rewards of your labor. You could access healthcare services when you needed them. You’d have a roof over your head. You could retire with dignity. You could earn a place in the Middle Class even if you did not have a college degree–so long as you had a strong work ethic.
But that Deal has not been available to all, and for so many others, it has been broken. Upstate New York’s economy was decimated as plants closed down and good manufacturing jobs were shipped overseas. Josh delivered the newspaper to his neighbors every morning, and it often had headlines about Upstate New York’s job losses right next to headlines about Wall Street’s capital gains. Upstate New York was sold out by a culture of greed on Wall Street and a culture of corruption in Congress. Many of Josh’s friends, family, and neighbors lost their jobs.
Through adversity, though, Josh saw people pull together and push through. Upstate New Yorkers are nothing if not resilient. And it’s the work ethic and values that Josh learned growing up in Upstate New York that have guided his career.
With student loans, savings from his newspaper route, and part-time work, Josh graduated with high honors from the College of William & Mary and Harvard Law School. At Josh’s law school graduation, then-Dean Elena Kagan presented Josh with the Dean’s Award for Community Leadership in recognition of Josh’s track record in public service.
Josh got his start in public service as a Staff Assistant in Congressman Maurice Hinchey’s office, where Josh learned the importance of constituent services in the day-to-day lives of everyday folks. Early in his career, Josh had a fellowship on U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy’s Labor & Pensions Committee staff where Josh worked on legislation to raise the minimum wage and fought back against big corporations that tried to weaken the Family & Medical Leave Act.
Josh served as a Policy Analyst at the U.S. Department of Labor where he focused on strengthening safety nets–like the unemployment insurance and trade adjustment assistance programs–for communities that lost jobs through no fault of their own. After Hurricane Katrina, Josh went to New Orleans to volunteer in a legal aid clinic assisting workers who lost their jobs because of the storm.
After graduating from law school, Josh moved to South Florida to work with the American Academy of Pediatrics on a landmark civil rights lawsuit representing kids from low-income families who were having difficulty accessing the healthcare services they needed. The Public Interest Law Center presented Josh and his team with the Thaddeus Stevens Award in recognition of their work on that case.
Josh then served as a law clerk for Judge Kim Wardlaw on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in California where Josh handled cases involving complex questions of constitutional law.
Following his clerkship, Josh returned to Washington to serve as General Counsel to U.S. Senator Al Franken on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Despite partisan gridlock and division in Congress, Josh successfully ushered two bills through the legislative process from introduction to the President’s desk, where they were signed into law. One of those bills created new rights for survivors of domestic violence to protect them from homelessness. The other bill provided new funding for addiction treatment and mental health programs. (You can read Josh’s op-ed about these issues here.) As an attorney in the Senate, Josh also worked to restore the Voting Rights Act after it was gutted by the U.S. Supreme Court. (You can read Josh's op-ed on these issues here.) He led the fight against cable company mergers that would have resulted in higher prices, worse service, and fewer choices for consumers. And Josh organized investigations into corporate misconduct that exploited workers, consumers, servicemembers, and seniors.
As an attorney in private legal practice, Josh has filed briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court arguing for stronger campaign finance laws and better healthcare for all, and he filed briefs in the lower courts arguing for ratification of the Equal Rights Act and improved access to benefits for veterans. He also supported legal challenges opposing the Trump Administration’s discriminatory immigration policies, filing U.S. Supreme Court arguments to support Dreamers and oppose the Muslim Ban. (You can read Josh’s op-ed on the latter here.) Josh has been recognized nationally for his legal practice, including having been named in 2020 by Law360 as one of the nation’s three “Rising Stars” for technology and innovation issues and having been named in 2018 and 2019 to 40–under-40 lists for attorneys in Washington, D.C.
Now, Josh is running for Congress to deliver results for Upstate New York neighborhoods like the one he grew up in. He is offering a bold and optimistic vision for the region’s future because he is proud of our past: whenever the world has faced big challenges, Upstate New York has risen to meet them, and Josh knows we can do it again. (Read Josh's op-ed on this topic here.).
Josh is running a grassroots campaign, refusing corporate PAC money and instead relying on supporters, like you. To join our team, sign up here.
Josh and his wife Monica live in Ithaca with their 2 year-old son.
New York Working Families Party
Cortland County Democratic Committee
Defend the Vote
New York Progressive Action Network
North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters
Democracy for America
Chenango County Democratic Committee
Our democracy is imperiled. We need to defend it and strengthen it.
You can read Josh's op-ed on these issues here.
A. Let’s Be Very Clear: Voters Decide Elections, Not Politicians.
B. We Need To Make It Easier For People To Vote, Not Harder.
C. Our Campaign Finance System Is A Cesspool. Let’s Drain It.
D. Partisan Gerrymandering Is Destroying Our Democracy. We Must End It For Everyone Everywhere.
We must revitalize, innovate, and strengthen the economy (RISE) in a way that lifts everyone up and brings everyone along.
You can read Josh's op-ed on these issues here.
A. Upstate New Yorkers Can Compete With Anyone Anywhere–So Long As We’re Competing On A Level Playing Field.
Nobody works harder than Upstate New Yorkers. But bad trade deals have forced us to compete against regions where workers are exploited, environmental protections are weak, and corruption is rampant. Upstate New York has lost hundreds of thousands of jobs as a result.
First, we must end bad trade deals that ship American jobs overseas, and we must ensure that all future trade deals include strong labor, environmental, and legal standards, along with the resources and authorities necessary to enforce them.
Second, we must strengthen and update the Trade Adjustment Assistance program to provide renewed and increased investments in communities that have lost good manufacturing jobs because of bad trade deals.
B. Throughout History, Upstate New Yorkers Have Made Products To Address Some Of The World’s Most Pressing Challenges. We Can Do That Again.
Upstate New York always has been a place that makes things that change the world–whether it’s the boots the soldiers wore in the World Wars, the television sets that families gathered around to watch an American land on the moon, or the computers that ushered in a technology revolution. We can be on the cutting-edge again, but only if we invest in innovative industries and the jobs of the future. That is why Josh is proposing a bold and aggressive growth and innovation agenda here in Upstate New York.
First, Josh supports a Made-in-the-USA+Bought-in-the-USA procurement system. We must reform our federal procurement laws and regulations to ensure that Americans’ taxpayer funds are used to buy American products and services whenever practicable, supporting local jobs and communities.
Second, with appropriate local community engagement, we must invest in critical industries with good jobs–like semiconductor manufacturing, 5G deployment, and clean energy–here in Upstate New York. Other countries are investing in research, development, and manufacturing, and America must not only keep pace but set it. That’s why Josh will support legislation that provides federal funding to improve American competitiveness, invest in innovation, and create the jobs of the future right here at home. That includes:
- passage of the U.S. Competition & Innovation Act and companion legislation, which would revive domestic semiconductor manufacturing after years of ceding ground to Asia;
- the U.S. Energy Department’s full implementation of the recently enacted Battery Material Processing Program, which could make Upstate New York the new frontier in green energy storage; and
- direct investments by the National Telecommunications & Information Administration to support 5G manufacturing under the newly created Broadband Deployment Program.
Third, we must fully fund federal economic development agencies, including the Appalachian Regional Commission (which covers part of NY-22) and the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration, to direct investment capital to regions that historically are underserved.
C. Upstate New York’s Greatest Asset Is Its People. We Must Invest In Them.
As a Policy Analyst at the U.S. Department of Labor, Josh worked on programs that connect entrepreneurs with community colleges to build curricula and training programs that equip workers with the skills they need for jobs of the future. We need more and better workforce development programs.
First, we must reauthorize and update the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act so it prepares workers to be successful in the clean energy and advanced manufacturing jobs we will create here in Upstate New York.
Second, we must be clear: a university degree should not be a requirement to enter the Middle Class. There’s dignity and honor in other types of education and training, and that must be reflected in our public policies. Community colleges should be tuition-free; apprenticeship programs should be readily available for anyone who is willing to put in the work; and Career & Technical Education diplomas should be recognized for their value.
D. Working Families Deserve Tax Cuts; Big Corporations That Ship Jobs Overseas Don’t.
Today, the wealthy and big corporations employ armies of accountants and lawyers to shield their money from taxes while working families are left to take their lumps and pay their dues. It’s little wonder that the top 1% now have more wealth than the entire Middle Class combined. That’s not just an economic issue; it’s a moral issue.
First, we must ensure that the wealthy and big corporations pay their fair share. Josh supports:
- a minimum tax on corporations with over $1 billion in profits, thereby preventing them from exploiting loopholes and deploying accounting gimmicks to avoid paying taxes;
- an enforceable and adequate corporate tax on overseas profits, thereby incentivizing corporations to do business and hire workers here at home instead of sending them abroad;
- a surtax on personal income over $5 million, regardless of its source, and a surtax on wealth for trusts and estates valued at $25 million or more.
Second, we must give working families a break. Josh wants to put more money in their pockets by:
- increasing the standard deduction so working families can keep more of their hard-earned money
- expanding and making permanent the Child Tax Credit, which has put food on kids’ tables, clothes on kids’ backs, and lifted so many families out of poverty;
- expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit so it covers more working families and provides them larger tax credits.
E. A Strong Economy Requires Strong Infrastructure, And Strong Infrastructure Requires Good Jobs.
Serving in Congress isn’t just about writing, passing, and voting on proposed laws; it’s also about overseeing the implementation of laws that already have been enacted. Josh conducted congressional oversight when he served as counsel in the Senate, and, and he will take that experience to Washington on behalf of Upstate New Yorkers.
In particular, Josh supports the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act, and he will work tirelessly to ensure that the law is implemented effectively, driving investments to local projects in Upstate New York with several points of emphasis:
First, as we undertake the transformation of Interstate 81, we must have deep and collaborative relationships between the U.S. Department of Transportation and local stakeholders to ensure the project runs as smoothly as practicable–and a network in place to respond rapidly when it doesn’t. And we must ensure that all available federal funds are directed to the project, including to the local businesses and labor working on it. This includes funding under the newly created Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program, which is intended to remedy the effects of infrastructure projects that historically have segregated communities.
Second, too many workers are spending way too much time commuting to their jobs because of inadequate public transportation options. We must increase, improve, and electrify bus service, giving workers more, better, and greener options to get around. The Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act provides over $50 million to improve bus service around Syracuse, and those funds must be deployed effectively with significant community engagement and congressional oversight.
Third, too many workers, students, and businesses across Upstate New York are finding themselves on the wrong side of a growing digital divide. We must close it by ensuring that all Upstate New Yorkers have access to reliable, high-speed Internet access. To do so, we must:
- restore strong net neutrality rules, ensuring that the Internet belongs to the people who use it, not the cable companies;
- promote competition among providers, including through the deployment of municipal broadband; and
- effectively deploy the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act’s historic $65 billion investment in broadband infrastructure in underserved areas.
Fourth, every single person in Upstate New York deserves access to clean drinking water, no matter their zip code. But too many homes across the region are still served by lead pipes, which could lead to water contamination. We must ensure that Upstate New York receives its fair share of funding under to replace lead water delivery systems, and we must work with the U.S. Department of Labor to receive any technical assistance required for these projects.
Fifth, climate change has increased our risk of more frequent and more severe flooding, yet Upstate New York’s flood mitigation infrastructure is crumbling. We must work closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal agencies to invest in building and improving dams and other flood mitigation systems.
F. Of All The Things Labor Unions Make, Nothing Is As Important As A Bridge To The Middle Class.
New York’s labor unions were among the first to organize garment workers and factory floors over a century ago, and they remain on the forefront of the labor movement, being the first to organize a Starbucks store just this year. But workers’ right to organize and bargain collectively is under attack. Josh supports:
- the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which would make it easier for workers to join a union and harder for corporations to bust them;
- Project Labor Agreements, ensuring that local projects are built by local workers at prevailing wages; and
- increased enforcement of wage, hour, and workplace safety laws so corporations will be held accountable if they exploit or endanger workers.
Details coming soon.
Every Child Deserves an Opportunity to Meet his or her Full Potential-and no Child Deserves to Live in Poverty
You can read Josh's op-ed on these issues here.
Recent reports from the U.S. Census Bureau show that nearly half of kids in Syracuse are living in poverty, the highest childhood poverty rate of any city in the country.
Alarming as they are, these reports tell only part of the story. That is because statistics alone do not adequately convey the human suffering that kids experience when they don’t have enough food to eat, warm enough clothes to wear, or access to the care and support they need or the opportunities they deserve.
That’s what we’re seeing in Syracuse today. It’s heartbreaking. It’s unacceptable. And it has to change.
Josh is proposing the following plan of action that Congress can take to reduce child poverty in Syracuse and across the country, and he is inviting you to submit your ideas for adding to and improving this plan by sending an email to PlanToFightPoverty@JoshRileyForCongress.com.
A. Ending Poverty Begins With Public Education.
Josh is the proud product of Upstate New York’s public schools, and he credits his public school education with the opportunities he has had throughout his career. He wants every child in Upstate New York to have those same opportunities and a fair shot at upward mobility.
But just about every study on the issue confirms that kids living in poverty have lower levels of educational opportunity and achievement than their peers. And it’s no wonder why: it’s so much harder for kids to perform in the classroom when they’re dealing with the everyday stresses and insecurities of poverty.
And these disparities in educational achievement are exacerbated in communities with a high concentration of poverty (i.e., a high percentage of people in poverty). That’s not surprising either: if there’s poverty all around you, it’s harder to escape it.
Josh believes that our public school system should be a safe and nurturing place where kids not only have access to a world-class education but also the support they need to make the most of it–all regardless of the zip code they live in, the color of their skin, or their financial circumstances.
The upcoming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is an important opportunity to make progress toward this goal. Josh will have at least the following two priorities with respect to that effort.
First, Josh proposes to significantly increase funding under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which provides resources for schools with high percentages of kids living in or near poverty, and Josh also would amend the statute to provide greater incentives for states to disperse that funding more equitably, ensuring that money is invested where it is needed most.
Second, Josh would work to use Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization as a vehicle for passage of the Full-Service Community School Expansion Act, which would invest $3.6 billion in “community schools” that provide not just classroom instruction and traditional extra-curricular activities but also a full suite of wraparound services and supports for kids living in or near poverty. Studies show that a dollar invested in community schools returns $15 in benefits.
B. If We Want Kids In Poverty To Have A Fair Shot To Get Ahead, We Can’t Keep Forcing Them To Start Out From Behind.
The period from birth to kindergarten is critical for kids. It’s when their brains develop the most, and their experiences during this period can shape the trajectory of their futures. Research is clear that access to quality early childhood educational opportunities during this period results in improved outcomes over children’s lives. Yet about half of three-year-olds and a third of four-year-olds are not enrolled in pre-school, often because it is not publicly available and the private options are not affordable for low-income families.
Syracuse has been a leader in offering pre-K opportunities to kids, and the city deserves federal support in that effort. That is why Josh supports proposals to create federally-supported universal access to full-day pre-K programs for three- and four-year-olds. Studies show that these investments not only result in better outcomes for kids, they also provide significant returns for society as kids who participate in these programs go on to have healthier, more productive, and more fulfilling lives.
C. We Can’t Expect Kids To Learn And Succeed On Empty Bellies–So Let’s Fill Them Up.
For many kids in poverty, school meals are some of the best and most reliable meals they get. But school meals are not going far enough today. Of all kids eligible for free school lunch, only about one-in-seven gets a school lunch in the summer, and only about one-in-fourteen gets a supper through their school. Josh supports proposals to:
- expand school meal programs to reach more kids after school, during the summer, and on weekends;
- reward schools that procure local foods–a win-win for kids and for local agriculture–as proposed in Section 201 of the Universal School Meals Program Act; and
- increase support for schools and community organizations that provide federally-funded meals.
D. If We Want Healthy Kids, We Need Healthy Moms
Congress must expand access to comprehensive maternity care and early childhood preventive healthcare to make sure moms and kids are getting the care they need early in a child’s life, when it matters most. Josh supports:
- the Healthy Maternity and Obstetric Medicine Act, which would provide an additional ten months of postpartum care for moms living at or near the poverty line;
- efforts to expand the National Health Service Corps to reward medical professionals who provide maternity and postpartum care in underserved communities; and
- improvements to Medicaid reimbursement rates for maternity and early childhood care.
E. Low-Income Working Parents Should Not Have To Choose Between Their Livelihood And Caring For Their Kids.
Of all the things Josh has done in his career, the thing he values the most was the opportunity to take parental leave to bond with and care for his newborn son. Josh believes that every parent and child should have that opportunity–regardless of their financial circumstances.
When Josh served as a Heyman Fellow on the U.S. Senate Labor & Pensions Committee, he worked to protect the Family Medical Leave Act from efforts to weaken it. He believes Congress now must update and expand that law. Josh supports:
- family leave policies that provide all parents with paid time off from work to care for a child; and
- enhanced benefits for low-income parents, guaranteeing at least 12 weeks of fully paid leave to care for a child.
F. The Affordable Housing Crisis Is An Opportunity To Create Good Jobs, Protect The Environment, And Put Roofs Over Kids’ Heads.
Every single child deserves a safe shelter, but too many families are struggling to keep a roof over their heads. In Syracuse today, most families pay about one-third of their income in rent, in part because demand for affordable housing far exceeds supply.
Unfortunately, Congress missed a great opportunity to address this issue when affordable housing construction provisions were stripped from the recently enacted Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act. Congress should provide more funding for housing infrastructure, and we should use local labor to build this housing in a sustainable way–a win for workers, low-income families, and the environment.
G. The Best Path Out Of Poverty For Kids Is A Good Job And Good Wages For Their Parents.
As explained in greater detail in Section II.B above, Josh has proposed creating the jobs of the future right here in Upstate New York. Those jobs will provide good benefits and good paychecks that will allow families to earn a place in the Middle Class.
And nobody who works full time should live in or near poverty, so Josh supports raising the minimum wage. When Josh served as a Heyman Fellow on the U.S. Senate Labor & Pensions Committee, Josh worked on legislation to raise the minimum wage, and in private legal practice, he represented workers whose rights were violated under the Fair Labor Standards Act, helping them recover wages that their employers unlawfully withheld. New York has set a good example by raising its minimum wage, and Josh believes that Congress should do the same nationally.
H. Federal Infrastructure Policy Historically Has Torn Down And Segregated Low-Income Communities; Now It Must Lift Them Up And Bring Them Together Instead.
Josh supports implementation of the Infrastructure Investment & Job Act’s investments in critical infrastructure that is desperately needed in communities with high concentrations of poverty. As explained in detail in Section II.E above, Josh supports:
- replacing lead pipes in existing homes and schools;
- implementing the Rebuilding Communities Pilot Program to reconnect and revitalize communities that were segregated by interstate highway construction decades ago;
- expanding high-speed Internet service to close the digital divide and create new economic and educational opportunities; and
- improving bus service and public transportation to make it easier for parents to get to work and back home to their kids.
I. We Must Provide Reinforcements For The Organizations On The Front Lines Of The Fight Against Poverty, Including Those Focused On Early Childhood Literacy.
So many local non-profit organizations are doing herculean work to fight childhood poverty, but they’re doing it on shoestring budgets. It’s like fighting a war with plastic knives. We should send in some reinforcements. Among other things, Congress should increase funding for the Community Services Grant program, a critical lifeline for local organizations working to combat poverty.
And because literacy should not be a luxury, Congress should update the Community Services Grant program’s authorizing statute to provide specific allowances for programs (including those administered by local libraries) that deliver books directly to kids’ homes. Studies show that more than half of low-income kids are growing up in homes without books–even though access to books is one of the most powerful indicators of academic achievement later in life. Between transportation challenges, long work hours, and other demands, it’s hard for many working parents to get their kids to the library, so we should do more to bring books home to them.
J. Our Tax Code Should Support Kids Who Need Help, Not The Super-Wealthy Who Don’t.
As explained in greater detail in Section II.D above, Josh wants to reform the tax code to invest in working families, not wealthy interests. Among other things, he proposes to:
- reinstate the Child Tax Credit,
- expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, and
- give working families a tax cut,
- all while making sure the super-wealthy and big corporations pay their fair share.
Climate change is an existential threat that requires bold action.
A. It’s Going To Take A Lot Of Work To Save The Planet–And That Means Lots Of Good Jobs.
B. The Finger Lakes Region Is A National Treasure, And It Should Be Protected Like One.
C. We Must Get To Zero Net Greenhouse Emissions, And We Must Do It Quickly.
D. We Need More Environmental Cops On The Beat To Stop Polluters.
Healthcare should be a civil right for all Americans.
A. Our Healthcare System Must Be Reformed To Prioritize Patients Over Profits.
B. The Pharmaceutical Industry Is Putting Money In Politicians’ Pockets And Taking It Out Of Yours. That Has To Stop.
C. Seniors Should Have Access To All The Care They Need, Not Just Some Of It.
D. Women’s Healthcare Decisions Are Women’s Healthcare Decisions, Not The Government’s.
E. Mental Health Must Be Covered Just Like Physical Health.
F. Too Many Communities Have Been Left Out Of The Healthcare System; We Need To Take Care To The Places It’s Needed.
G. We Must Prepare Today For The Pandemics And Public Health Emergencies Of Tomorrow.
Josh’s son was born during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic–so preventing the next public health crisis is deeply personal to him. That is why Josh supports:
- proposals requiring FEMA to conduct a comprehensive after-action assessment to identify areas where supply chains broke down and what stockpiles may be needed for future emergencies, all coupled with investments to manufacture and stockpile those supplies in the United States;
- investments in public health research, including funding for the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control; and
- enhanced security requirements for laboratories handling dangerous viruses.