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Barbara Lee helps lead protest at McDonald’s

Rep. Barbara Lee led several dozen community members and activists Tuesday on a march through a McDonald’s in East Oakland to protest the company’s alleged wage theft.

Three class-action lawsuits filed last week accuse the Illinois-based fast-food giant and three of its California franchisees of stealing employees’ money by forcing them to work off the clock, shaving hours off their time cards and not paying them overtime, among other things. Similar cases have been filed in New York and Michigan.

Barbara Lee & Jennifer Lin 3-18-14 (photo by Josh Richman)“This illegal wage theft must stop … Enough is enough,” said Lee, D-Oakland, speaking into a megaphone inside the McDonald’s at East 12th Street and 25th Avenue.

She had just led a chanting, sign-carrying crowd down 25th Avenue and into the restaurant, where employees and puzzled patrons looked on as she praised the activists.

“It takes a lot of courage to do this… You inspire me,” she said. “You deserve to live the American dream. You deserve fair wages.”

As soon as Lee finished speaking, Oakland Police officers demanded that the protesters step outside; the rally continued in the parking lot. “Fill my wages, not my fries – make our wages super-size,” they chanted, along with the labor slogan, “Si se puede.” Several carried signs that said “I’m Hatin’ It,” a play on a famed McDonald’s catchphrase.

“We’re all fed up, we’re tired of this,” said Ilda Amador, 25, of Oakland, who said she has faced similar problems while working at Jack in the Box. Rhonesha Victor, 24, of Oakland, said the same of her job at KFC, noting fast-food workers make meager wages to start with and can’t afford to let their employers take advantage of them. “These companies, they have to pay.”

Matthew Murray, a San Francisco attorney representing workers in one of the California cases, called Lee’s participation “a reflection that these are important issues, that workers are stepping up to assert their rights is a big deal, and that multinational corporations like McDonald’s have to follow the law, too.”

Barbara Lee 3-18-14 (photo by Josh Richman)Murray said attorneys’ ongoing investigation “suggests that this is a long-standing problem and a widespread problem,” and the company “exerts extensive control over its franchises, including over its franchises’ labor practices.”

McDonalds employs about 1.8 million people in more than 34,000 restaurants worldwide, including more than 14,000 in the United States. More than 80 percent of McDonald’s restaurants are franchised.

“McDonald’s and our independent owner-operators share a concern and commitment to the well-being and fair treatment of all people who work in McDonald’s restaurants,” spokeswoman Heidi Barker Sa Shekhem said in a statement issued in response to the lawsuits. “We are currently reviewing the allegations in the lawsuits. McDonald’s and our independent owner-operators are each committed to undertaking a comprehensive investigation of the allegations and will take any necessary actions as they apply to our respective organizations. McDonald’s restaurants remain open today—and every day—thanks to the teams of dedicated employees serving our customers.”

Posted on Tuesday, March 18th, 2014
Under: Barbara Lee, Oakland, U.S. House | 10 Comments »

Rep. Barbara Lee speaks at U.N. panel on women

Rep. Barbara Lee, in her capacity as a U.S. representative to the 68th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, attended meetings Monday at the U.N. headquarters in New York City for the 58th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

President Obama named Lee, D-Oakland, to her U.N. service last September.

In addition to attending several events, Lee took part Monday in a panel sponsored by the Permanent missions of Latvia and Poland to discuss women, the economy, health, and political participation. Here’s an excerpt from her remarks:

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“Finally, as it relates to political participation, let me just say—it has been less than 100 years since the first woman was elected to the U.S. Congress.

“In fact, our last election, in 2013, was hailed as a ‘historic’ year, with more women elected to congressional seats than ever.

“Yet, women in our own country continue to struggle for representation and equality in politics. Shamefully, the US ranks 79th in the word in terms of women representation. Of 535 seats in the United States Congress, 101 are held by women. That is less than 20% even though women compose just over 50% of the U.S. population.

“We know that we’ve made real gains, but the truth is that we are not close to achieving the parity we need. Underrepresentation is even more pronounced for women of color, with them composing less than 6% of Congress.

Read more of Lee’s remarks, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, March 10th, 2014
Under: Barbara Lee, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Lawmakers urge Obama to reclassify marijuana

Eighteen House members, including six from the Bay Area, wrote to President Obama today urging him to use his authority to move marijuana off the federal government’s list of most-restricted drugs.

Marijuana currently is listed on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, a list for drugs deemed to have a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in the United States and a lack of accepted safety under medical supervision. The lawmakers’ letter says this “makes no sense” for marijuana, and calls on the president to instruct Attorney General Eric Holder to reclassify the drug.

“Classifying marijuana as Schedule I at the federal level perpetuates an unjust and irrational system,” the letter says. “Schedule I recognizes no medical use, disregarding both medical evidence and the laws of nearly half of the states that have legalized medical marijuana.”

The letter comes days after Obama told the New Yorker magazine that he believes marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol, a comment that has brought criticism from anti-drug activists.

Among those signing the letter were Reps. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; and Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton. The only Republican among the 18 signers was Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach.

The Controlled Substances Act gives authority for rescheduling controlled substances to Congress, but it also grants executive branch authority to the U.S. Attorney General and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Several rescheduling bills have gone nowhere in recent years.

“President Obama just told the nation during his State of the Union address that because Congress has been unable to act, he would take executive action where he could on behalf of helping the American people,” said Steph Sherer, executive director of Oakland-based Americans for Safe Access. “The president has the authority to reclassify marijuana and could exercise that authority at any time.”

Posted on Wednesday, February 12th, 2014
Under: Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, Jared Huffman, marijuana, Mike Honda, Obama presidency, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | No Comments »

Barbara Lee speaks at anti-poverty prayer event

The Congressional Black Caucus held its first national Day of Prayer on Thursday, gathering with faith leaders on the U.S. Capitol’s East Lawn to seek divine help to end poverty and income inequality.

Hours after President Obama attended the annual National Prayer Breakfast, the lawmakers prayed for America to be awakened to and united against the plight of those living below the poverty line even as the nation’s richest get richer.

Lee at CBC prayer serviceRep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, chairs the CBC’s Task Force on Poverty and the Economy, and so was front and center at Thursday’s event.

“As millions of families continue to live below the poverty line, and the gap between the wealthiest in our nation and all others continues to grow, it is more important than ever that members of the Congressional Black Caucus and interfaith leaders stand in solidarity to pray for the consciousness of America to be awakened and united against this startling and unconscionable trend,” Lee said at the event.

The Rev. Stephen McHale of Christ Episcopal Church in Alameda and the Rev. Diana McDaniel of Unity Church of San Leandro were among the clergy who gathered at the Capitol. Other East Bay clergy leaders are scheduled to gather for a similar prayer service at 4 p.m. Thursday in Oakland’s Allen Temple Baptist Church.

Lee last May introduced H.R. 2182, the Half in Ten Act, which would create a federal interagency working group on reducing poverty and develop a national strategy on cutting poverty in half within a decade. She recently used her seat on the Appropriations Committee to insert language supporting these principles in the omnibus spending bill approved by Congress and signed into law by the president.

Posted on Thursday, February 6th, 2014
Under: Barbara Lee, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

Bay Area House members offer Postal Service bills

Two Bay Area House members went postal Wednesday, introducing legislation to protect and update the U.S. Postal Service’s assets.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, introduced H.Res. 466, which would urge the Postal Service to halt all sales of historic postal buildings across the nation and permanently preserve them.

Berkeley Post Office“These historic post offices are an irreplaceable part of our nation’s history. They belong to the American people, and shouldn’t be sold without community input,” Lee said in a news release. “Historic post office buildings are an integral part of our cultural heritage and should not be used as a bargaining chip in resolving the Postal Service’s financial woes.”

In the bipartisan omnibus Appropriations bill passed this month, lawmakers called upon the USPS to halt sales of historic post offices until the Office of the Inspector General publishes its investigation on the processes and plans used for the sale and preservation of historic properties. Lee’s resolution expands upon that effort to ensure that these national landmarks are permanently preserved for their communities.

“The East Bay values and cherishes the Berkeley Post Office,” she said. “This bill would ensure that historic post offices across the country, including the Berkeley Post office, remain as a cornerstone of our community.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, joined with Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., to introduce a bill requiring modernization of the Postal Service’s outdated vehicle fleet.

Grumman LLVThe Postal Service owns and operates the world’s largest civilian vehicle fleet: 192,000 mail delivery vehicles that are driven 4.3 million miles per day. More than 141,000 are aging Grumman LLVs, which average only 10 miles per gallon; this vehicle first went into service in 1987, and most have reached the end of their 24-year operational lifespan.

HR 3963, the Federal Leadership in Energy Efficient Transportation (FLEET) Act of 2014, would require the USPS to reduce its petroleum consumption by 2 percent each year for the next 10 years. The aim is to reduce fuel spending while increasing efficiency; the Union of Concerned Scientists estimates the bill would save the Postal Service an estimated 150 million gallons of fuel over the next ten years, worth about $400 million, Huffman’s office said.

“The Postal Service is crippled by an inefficient, outdated fleet, and the vast majority of these vehicles are reaching the end of their operational lives,” Huffman said in a news release. “The FLEET Act will help us invest in a modern, efficient Postal Service fleet. Our nation’s largest civilian fleet should serve as a global leader in efficiency and innovation.”

Shirley ChisholmIn other postal news, Lee is scheduled to be joined by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; and former Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, on Saturday at Mills College in Oakland for the rollout of the Shirley Chisholm Forever® stamp.

This 37th stamp in the Black Heritage Series honors Chisholm, who was the first African American woman elected to Congress and who ran for president in 1972. She was the first African American and the second woman ever to seek a major party’s presidential nomination.

Lee first met Chisholm at Mills College in 1972, and organized Chisholm’s Northern California primary campaign that year. She first introduced legislation in 2005 expressing Congress’s sense that a commemorative stamp should be issued in Chisholm’s honor. The stamp image – designed by art director Ethel Kessler and featuring a color portrait of Chisholm by artist Robert Shetterly – will be unveiled Saturday.

The unveiling ceremony will be followed by panel discussion on House Democrats’ “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds” economic agenda, just like one that Pelosi, Speier and Lee did last week in San Francisco.

Posted on Wednesday, January 29th, 2014
Under: Barbara Lee, Jared Huffman, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

House budget vote makes strange bedfellows

The House has voted 322-94 to approve the two-year budget deal hammered out by Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan.

But the vote made for strange bedfellows: Two diametrically opposed Northern California House members I interviewed for last Sunday’s storyBarbara Lee and Tom McClintock – both voted against the deal, albeit for very different reasons.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)Lee, D-Oakland, said she couldn’t vote for a deal that doesn’t extend unemployment benefits beyond Dec. 28 for 1.3 million long-term jobless Americans.

“The least we can do for the millions of long-term unemployed who are struggling just to get by during this holiday season is to pass this three-month extension,” she said. “This budget does nothing for the millions of jobless people and asks nothing from the people who caused our economic crisis and continue to benefit from economic inequality. Please remember, this is not about showboating or statistics; we are talking about people’s lives. We are talking about people living on the edge. We are talking about 1.3 million people who will lose unemployment benefits during this holiday season. It is cruel. It is morally wrong, and it is economically stupid.”

Tom McClintockMcClintock, R-Granite Bay, says the deal undoes even what scant good sequestration had done for reducing the nation’s long-term debt and deficit. The most stinging indictment of the deal might come from former Reagan budget director David Stockman, McClintock said.

“His verdict is chilling: ‘It’s a joke and betrayal. It’s the final surrender of the House Republican leadership to Beltway politics and kicking the can and ignoring the budget monster that’s hurtling down the road.’” McClintock said. “The new Congressional budget is a mistake at a time when we can’t afford many more mistakes. The path of least resistance, even if paved with good intentions, is not a path America can afford to travel any longer.”

All other Bay Area House members voted for the deal.

In the hours before Thursday’s vote, Rep. Eric Swalwell had wrangled members of the bipartisan freshman United Solutions Caucus he helped found to urge the deal’s passage.

The 13 lawmakers – eight Democrats and five Republicans – who signed Swalwell’s statement noted the deal will give citizens and businesses a sense of fiscal stability that has been “sorely lacking of late,” and will replaces parts of the automatic sequester cuts while still reducing the long-term deficit.

“No agreement is perfect and there are aspects of the Ryan/Murray budget with which all of us disagree,” the statement reads. “But, that is what legislating in Congress is all about – cooperating to achieve an agreement which on balance would improve the lives of the American people. We encourage all Members to support this budget and help us take this step forward, together, in getting our fiscal house in order.”

Other signers of the statement included David Valadao, R-Hanford; and Scott Peters, D-San Diego.

Posted on Thursday, December 12th, 2013
Under: Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

Barbara Lee will attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral

Rep. Barbara Lee will be part of the official congressional delegation to Johannesburg, South Africa to attend memorial services for former President Nelson Mandela on Tuesday.

The 23-member delegation will be joined there by President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama; former President Bill Clinton; former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura; and former President Jimmy Carter.

Lee, D-Oakland, led the 2008 effort in Congress to remove Mandela and the African National Congress from the U.S. Terrorist Watch List in time for Mandela’s 90th birthday:

She also was a member of the host committee for Mandela’s 1990 visit to Oakland, and served as an official election observer in South Africa during Mandela’s first election as president in 1994.

Posted on Monday, December 9th, 2013
Under: Barbara Lee, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

What they’re saying about the Iran nuclear deal

The nuclear deal that the international community has struck with Iran is being met with mixed reactions around the world, and here at home.

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

John Boehner“The interim deal has been and will continue to be met with healthy skepticism and hard questions, not just of the Iranians, but of ourselves and our allies involved in the negotiations. Iran has a history of obfuscation that demands verification of its activities and places the burden on the regime to prove it is upholding its obligations in good faith while a final deal is pursued.

“The Administration and its negotiating partners claim that a final deal can be completed that affirms Iran does not have a right to enrich and permanently and irreversibly dismantles the infrastructure of its uranium and plutonium nuclear programs. That is a goal the House shares. The lingering question, however, is whether the negotiating partners will work equally hard to preserve the strong international sanctions regime until that goal is achieved. Otherwise, we will look back on the interim deal as a remarkably clever Iranian move to dismantle the international sanctions regime while maintaining its infrastructure and material to pursue a break-out nuclear capability.

“The House looks forward to the Administration providing a briefing on the interim deal and the next steps.”

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

Nancy Pelosi“Last night’s agreement is an essential step toward meeting our ultimate objective: to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. President Obama, Secretary Kerry, their team, and our allies are to be commended for their successful efforts to hash out a deal that advances national, regional, and global security.

“It is clear that tough, far-reaching sanctions, enacted by Congress and enforced by the Obama Administration, enabled world powers to reach this point and freeze Iran’s nuclear development. But let there be no doubt: America’s commitment to the security of Israel and our allies across the region will stand firm; majority of our sanctions structure remains in place; and if Iran fails to live up to its obligations, the United States will not hesitate to reimpose, deepen, and expand our sanctions regime.

“This announcement marks a necessary bridge to further negotiations on a lasting, long-term, and comprehensive agreement. Through diplomacy, engagement, and unity among our allies, we must continue acting to end Iran’s nuclear weapons program once and for all.”

From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

“I support the agreement reached today between the P5+1 countries and Iran, which I believe is a significant step toward solving one of the most difficult security challenges facing the world today.

“The six-month agreement puts in place strict controls on Iran’s nuclear program. Iran must halt uranium enrichment above 5%, neutralize its stockpile of near-20% uranium (by either reducing to 3.5% or converting to uranium oxide), halt the installation of any additional centrifuges of any type, freeze the size of its 3.5% stockpile at current levels (converting any newly enriched 3.5% to uranium oxide), halt production and testing of fuel for the Arak heavy-water reactor, halt installation of any components for the reactor, not transfer fuel or heavy water to the site, share the reactor’s technical design with P5+1 countries and dramatically increase international inspections of all nuclear sites.

“In return, the sanctions relief for Iran is limited, estimated not to exceed $7 billion, which leaves more than $100 billion frozen.

“If Iran violates this agreement, it ends and we will know diplomacy is no longer an option. But if the terms are upheld, we will know that Iran is serious about reaching a final agreement.

“By any standard, this agreement is a giant step forward and should not be undermined by additional sanctions at this time.”

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“On tonight’s announcement from President Obama on the deal with Iran regarding their nuclear program, we must note the significance, but also recognize that there are challenges ahead.

“This is indeed a triumph for diplomacy, and I’m pleased that President Obama reasserted Congress’ role in these negotiations.

“It is my hope that this deal is a step towards a more peaceful and secure world.”

Posted on Sunday, November 24th, 2013
Under: Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 13 Comments »

Lawmakers urge DOJ to back off pot dispensaries

Four Bay Area House members are urging the area’s top federal prosecutor to halt what they say is ongoing “hostility toward dispensaries” that provide marijuana under the state’s medical marijuana law.

Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; George Miller, D-Martinez; Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton; and Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, sent a letter to Melinda Haag, U.S. Attorney for California’s Northern District. In says, in part:

“It is counterproductive and economically prohibitive to continue a path of hostility toward dispensaries. Moreover, it appears to directly counter the spirit of Deputy Attorney General Cole’s memo, and is in direct opposition to the evolving view toward medical marijuana, the will of the people and, by now, common sense. Additionally, the State of California has also received legislative direction and guidelines from California Attorney General Kamala Harris on responsibly delivering medical marijuana.

“It is our view that the intent of the Justice Department is to not enforce its anti-marijuana laws in conflict with the laws of states that have chosen to decriminalize marijuana for medical and recreational uses. California understands the urgency toward putting together a statewide regulatory system, and we can all be helpful in that regard, but some municipalities, including Oakland, have already done an extraordinary job regulating medical marijuana. California is moving in the correct direction in a measured manner, and should be given the opportunity to do so.”

Several Bay Area dispensaries have been targeted by federal prosecutors, and Alameda County supervisors this month adopted a resolution urging the federal government to back off.

In a news release announcing the lawmakers’ letter, Lee said it’s “far past time for commonsense and economic sense to prevail in policies and actions related to medical cannabis dispensaries that serve the patients in our communities. This harassment and constant threat of prosecution should end.”

Posted on Thursday, November 21st, 2013
Under: Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, marijuana, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Uncategorized | No Comments »

Go meet your House member

With the House of Representatives not convening again until Nov. 12, many members are out in their districts meeting the masses in the next few weeks. Among other opportunities:

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, has three town-hall meetings scheduled tomorrow (Saturday, Nov. 2): from 9 to 10 a.m. in the auditorium at the Orinda Library, 26 Orinda Way; from 10:30 to 11 a.m. in the multi-use room at Las Lomas High School, 1460 S. Main St. in Walnut Creek; and noon to 1 p.m. in the multi-use room at Pleasant Hill Elementary, 2097 Oak Park Blvd.

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, will hold a “Coffee with your Congressman” specifically for East Bay veterans from 9 to 10:30 a.m. tomorow in the Coast Guard Room at the Hayward Memorial Hall, 22737 Main St. The conversation will include the Department of Veterans Affairs backlog and how his office can assist with VA claims.

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, will attend Antioch’s 47th Neighborhood Cleanup Event from 9 to 10 a.m. tomorrow in Gentrytown Park on Monterey Drive.

Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, and the U.S. Patent and Trade Office will co-host a workshop on promoting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education starting at 9 a.m. tomorrow, Saturday, Nov. 2, in the Krause Center for Innovation at Foothill College, 12345 El Monte Road, Building 400 in Los Altos Hills. Later Saturday, he’ll stop by a Covered California healthcare insurance exchange enrollment fair that’s running from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Cherrywood Elementary School, 2550 Greengate Drive in San Jose. And at 12:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 4, he’ll be speaking on how federal budget sequestration has affected housing vouchers in a program hosted by the Housing Authority of Santa Clara County at the Rivertown Apartments, 1340 Hope Dr. in Santa Clara.

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, will speak on immigration reform during the North Bay Organizing Project’s annual meeting, which is open to the public and runs from 4 to 5:30 p.m. this Sunday, Nov. 3 at the Sonoma Academy, 2500 Farmers Lane in Santa Rosa. He’ll also hold a town hall meeting from 6 to 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 4, at the northern end of his district in the Middletown Community Center, 21256 Washington St. in Middletown, Lake County. And Thompson will give the opening remarks at an informational forum on the nation’s new health insurance law, sponsored by the American Association of University Women, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6 at Benicia First Baptist Church, 1055 Southampton Road.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will hold a coffee and conversation session at 10:15 a.m. next Saturday, Nov. 9 in Hive Café, 2139 MacArthur Blvd. in Oakland; due to limited space, constituents can RSVP by emailing LeeCA.events@mail.house.gov or by calling 510-763-0370. Lee also will hold a town hall at 10 a.m. the following Saturday, Nov. 16, in the council chambers at Alameda City Hall, 2263 Santa Clara Ave.

Posted on Friday, November 1st, 2013
Under: Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, U.S. House | 3 Comments »