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Senate passes ENDA; House Dems clamor for vote

The U.S. Senate voted 64-32 Thursday to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit sexual-orientation and gender-identity discrimination in hiring and employment by private, nonreligious employers with 15 or more employees.

“Today’s historic vote sends a strong signal that there is no room for discrimination in any workplace in America,” said U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. Here’s what she said on the Senate floor Wednesday in urging her colleagues to support the bill:

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., made a similar floor speech Wednesday.

“People have families; they have spouses; they have children; they need to put food on the table. They have college expenses for their children, student loans to pay, and unforeseen medical expenses. They may have elderly parents that they care for and who need their assistance. All of this requires a job,” she said. “Should a person be denied that basic aspect of life, should a person’s spouse or children or parents be hurt, simply because that person is gay or lesbian or transgender? For me, the answer is simple. It is no.”

Now House Democrats are clamoring for Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to let ENDA come up for a vote in that chamber. Boehner has said the law “will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs,” but the factual basis for that seems shaky.

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

“The Senate has done its part to advance the American values of fairness and equality for LGBT Americans; now, the House must follow suit. Members on both sides of the aisle have signed onto this legislation, yet the House Republican leadership continues to stand in the way of progress. After spending $2.3 million in taxpayer funds on a losing battle to deny equality to LGBT families in our courts, House Republicans find themselves on the wrong side of history once again.

“Earlier this year, in its decisions on DOMA and Prop 8, the Supreme Court upheld the words etched into its walls: ‘equal justice under law.’ Now, it’s time for House Republicans to join Democrats in that same cause. It’s time to bring ENDA up for a vote, pass this long overdue bill, and make this measure the law of the land.”

And from Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, the Education and the Workforce Committee’s ranking Democrat:

“Now that the Senate has acted, and for the sake of millions of fellow Americans living in states where they can still be fired for who they are or whom they love, it is the responsibility of the House to take up this bill as soon as possible.

“I am disappointed that some in the House Republican leadership are not eager to bring this bill to the floor. So we can expect hurdles in our way. But those hurdles are surmountable. The House can, should, and must bring this bill to the finish line and fulfill our nation’s promise of equal opportunity for all.”

Posted on Thursday, November 7th, 2013
Under: Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, George Miller, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 2 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 »

House Dems ask Boehner for ‘no shutdown’ vow

Rep. George Miller helped wrangle 178 House Democrats – including the rest of the Bay Area’s delegation – to sign two freshmen’s letter calling on Speaker John Boehner to publicly say he won’t use the threat of another government shutdown or debt default as a political tactic in the budget talks.

“Republicans shut down the government and nearly defaulted on America’s debt because they couldn’t shut down the new health care law,” Miller, D-Martinez, said in a news release. “Americans paid a steep price for that partisan and irresponsible action, costing the economy $24 billion and causing economic confidence to plummet. We’re calling on the Republican leadership in Congress to vow ‘No More Shutdowns’ or threats of default as we work out our legitimate differences over the federal budget.”

The letter – led by Reps. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., and Annie Kuster, D-N.H. – said “the most powerful source of uncertainty to American families and businesses is the threat of a government shutdown and default on our debts. That is why we are writing to you to urge you and your leadership to publicly declare that you will not again use the threat of a government shutdown or default as leverage in the important discussions regarding long-term deficit reduction and economic growth.”

OK, everyone – hold your breath now while we wait for Boehner to comply with their request…

Posted on Thursday, October 31st, 2013
Under: George Miller, John Boehner, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

Miller blasts Walmart for paying workers too little

An East Bay congressman blasted corporate giant Walmart on Wednesday for paying its workers so little, and essentially subsidizing its bottom line with taxpayer dollars.

George Miller“Walmart is the nation’s largest private-sector employer, yet they pay such low wages that many of its workers are unable to provide for their families. This is wrong,” Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, said in a news release. “When workers win, their families win, and we all win. If big corporations like Walmart paid their workers higher wages, families could live better. And federal taxpayers would not have to foot the bill to help them keep their heads above water.”

Miller, who is the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, joined with another House Democrat and Walmart employees for a Capitol Hill forum Wednesday taking the company to task.

The effort was in reaction to a presentation Walmart President & CEO Bill Simon made last month at the Goldman Sachs 2013 Annual Global Retailing Conference, in which he acknowledged that more than 475,000 associates earned more than $25,000 last year. Walmart employs 1.3 million associates in the United States, and had posted a $17 billion net profit for the fiscal year ending Jan. 31.

The lawmakers and Walmart workers renewed their calls Wednesday for Walmart to improve working conditions, stop retaliation against those who speak out, and increase hours to ensure workers earn a minimum of $25,000 a year for full-time work. Doing so, they say, would let workers cover the basics and help contribute to the economy.

“I work hard, and I want to be able to support my family and earn enough so I don’t have to rely on public assistance to survive,” Anthony Goytia, an overnight stocker at the Walmart in Duarte (Los Angeles County), said in the news release. Goytia works full-time and makes less than $16,000 a year, relying on food stamps and Medi-Cal to keep his family fed and cared for.

“These workers deserve safe workplaces and the right to speak out for their workplace rights without risking retaliation or being fired,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. “It’s time that Walmart listen to their workers who are here to demand what all Americans want: fair pay, fair rules and fair treatment.”

A report prepared by Miller’s committee staff earlier this year calculated that just one Walmart store’s employees must rely on $900,000 in taxpayer-funded supports, a number that’s expected to rise as more workers apply Medicaid because they are ineligible for Walmart healthcare plans.

Walmart has 264 stores employing 81,247 associates in California, according to the company’s website. Regular, full-time (34 hours per week or more) associates in California earn an average hourly wage of $13.03 – that’s $23,037.04 per year for a 34-hour work week, or $27,102.40 per year for a 40-hour work week.

Posted on Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013
Under: George Miller, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

Q3 fundraising reports: CA15, CA7 and many more

As third-quarter Federal Election Commission reports trickle in on today’s deadline, it looks as if freshman Rep. Eric Swalwell still doesn’t have much to worry about money-wise from his Democratic challenger.

Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, raised $277,928 and spent $69,599 in the third quarter, leaving him with $614,262 cash on hand and $7,639 in outstanding debts as of Sept. 30. State Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, raised $36,502 and spent $9,269 in the third quarter, leaving her with $143,417 cash on hand and no outstanding debts as of Sept. 30.

The 15th Congressional District – about 90 percent in Alameda County, and the rest in Contra Costa County – is registered 48.4 percent Democrat, 22.2 percent Republican and 20.7 percent no-party-preference.

I reported last week on what’s expected to be a fiercer Democrat-on-Democrat House showdown between Rep. Mike Honda and challenger Ro Khanna, where Khanna continues to outstrip the incumbent in fundraising.

Elsewhere, Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton – often a target of the National Republican Congressional Committee – raised $140,310 and spent $66,407, leaving him with $243,445 cash on hand and $3,704 in outstanding debts. He’ll be challenged next year by Republican Steve Anthony Colangelo of Stockton, a prominent member of the local business community who owns “the leading event supply company in the Central Valley for weddings, graduation parties and other important community and family events.” Colangelo’s third-quarter report is not yet available as of now.

In a more distant but potentially tighter race, two Republicans vying to take a crack at freshman Rep. Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova, are putting a lot of their own money into their campaigns.

Former Rep. Doug Ose, a Republican from Sacramento, announced early last month that he’ll challenge Bera. Ose reported Tuesday that he raised $238,150 and lent his campaign $250,000 from his own pocket while spending $15,681 in the third quarter, leaving him with $256,243 cash on hand and $61,839 in outstanding debts as of Sept. 30.

(UPDATE @ 8:45 P.M.: Nick Mirman, a spokesman for Ose’s campaign, e-mailed me this evening to say that the $250,000 that appeared in Ose’s latest report as a loan from the candidate “reflects forgiving campaign debt from the 2008 race … Again, he has not contributed $250,000 to his 2014 race.”)

Elizabeth Emken – U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Republican challenger in 2012, who since has moved from Danville to Fair Oaks for this race – reported raising $63,395 and loaning her campaign another $35,000 (for a total of $285,000 in personal loans so far this year) while spending $49,855 in the third quarter. That left her with $336,895 cash on hand but a whopping $293,255 in outstanding debts as of Sept. 30.

Bera raised $456,396 and spent $68,268 in the third quarter, leaving him with $898,748 cash on hand but $345,490 in outstanding debts as of Sept. 30.

Among the Bay-Area-House-Democrats-with-little-to-worry-about, third-quarter reports show:

    Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, raised $111,505 and spent $104,658, leaving her with $51,582 cash on hand and no outstanding debts
    Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, raised $65,421 and spent $34,519, leaving him with $349,073 cash on hand and $930 in outstanding debts
    Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, raised $196,000 and spent $77,595, leaving her with $477,678 cash on hand and no outstanding debts
    Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, raised $224,310 and spent $58,431, leaving her with $795,550 cash on hand and no outstanding debts
    Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, raised $127,190 and spent $71,987, leaving her with $1,103,324 cash on hand and $2,774 in outstanding debts.
    Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, raised $88,536 and spent $42,056, leaving him with $150,851 cash on hand and no outstanding debts.
    Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, raised $165,713 and spent $135,266, leaving him with $1,466,930 cash on hand and $6,172 in outstanding debts.

Posted on Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
Under: Ami Bera, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, campaign finance, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 8 Comments »

Miller: Petition might be last option to avert ruin

An effort to force a House vote on a “clean” continuing resolution to re-open the federal government “may become the parachute that saves us from crashing” if other plans fall through in the next day or so, Rep. George Miller said Tuesday afternoon.

George MillerA plan for the House to vote Tuesday evening on a GOP proposal to raise the debt limit and reopen the government appears to be on the rocks. House Republicans appear split on whether to support it, and the Democrat-led Senate probably wouldn’t pass it anyway because it would fund the government only through mid-December and it’s predicated on a tweak to the national health insurance law.

Senate leaders had been inching toward a deal of their own Monday, but that was put on hold Tuesday pending the House vote. If the Senate can’t return to the bargaining table, that leaves little time before Thursday’s deadline – after which the government loses its ability to borrow and won’t be able to pay its bills, triggering chaos in the world’s financial markets.

Democrats on Oct. 4 announced they would start a discharge petition to force a vote on a clean continuing resolution, but due to procedural requirements, they couldn’t start gathering signatures until Saturday. As of Tuesday afternoon, 196 Democrats had signed but no Republicans; 218 signatures are needed to force a vote.

House Democrats have been pressing 30 specific Republicans – who have voiced their distaste for their party’s shutdown strategy and said they would vote for a clean CR – to sign the discharge petition.

“They have not (signed) yet – they’re in negotiations, and this is a very heavy lift to join a discharge petition against your own leadership,” Miller, D-Martinez, said Tuesday, but he’s convinced enough will sign if there’s no other way to avoid the impending fiscal disaster.

“We’re 48 hours away from having a dual image flash across the world: The United States government is shut down AND it’s about to default on its debt,” he said. “That is a catastrophic image for our country.”

Posted on Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
Under: George Miller, U.S. House | No Comments »

Local House Dems decry vote to slash food aid

The House voted 217-210 today for a H.R. 3102, a Republican-backed bill that would effectively strip almost $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.

Democrats say more than 4 million Americans will lose their food assistance next year; three-fourths of households receiving SNAP aid include a child, senior or disabled person. Bay Area Democrats spoke out vehemently against the bill.

From the floor speech by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

“A couple of weeks ago, I was in Houston, Texas visiting my grandchildren and we were at mass. And the sermon was a beautiful one and the gospel was that day, too. Many of our colleagues have quoted the Gospel of Matthew: ‘When I was hungry, you [fed] me.’ And other parts of the bible, and the Gospel that day was talking about how we have a responsibility to each other. In the sermon, the priest said something that I think we should consider as we consider our vote here today. He said: ‘You just can’t come church and pray on Sunday and go out and prey on people for the rest of the week.’

“This legislation is preying – P-R-E-Y-I-N-G – on people, on children, on veterans, on seniors, on all those who are struggling to do their best in our country. It is our moral obligation to reject this legislation and to preserve these investments that every American needs, for Americans who need them, and other Americans who want them to have it. It is our moral duty to vote down this measure and to work across the aisle in conference on a comprehensive farm bill that ensure food security, supports our farmers and ranchers, and strengthens rural communities.

“Community. That should be the word of the hour. What is the responsibility to our community? It certainly isn’t to say the kids: ‘We want you to do your best in school, but we are not going to fuel your mind by giving you food to eat.’ Or to thank our veterans by depriving them of this [and] our seniors for all that they have done.

“Something is very wrong with this picture. But I know one thing is for sure: every person who votes for this Republican measure is voting to hurt his or her own constituents because we all represent people who at some time need help.”

From Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa:

“This bill is staggeringly out of touch with what the American people want and need. Cuts of this magnitude take food out of the mouths of millions of Americans and doom any hope of compromise on a full five year extension of the Farm Bill. Instead of wasting time on bills like the one offered today by the House Majority, we should be working with the Senate on a compromise bill that is fair to our farmers and ranchers, incentivizes conservation, and protects hard working families, seniors and children from devastating cuts that will cause millions to go hungry.”

From Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton:

“Today the Tea Party and their Republican allies decided to make it harder on people already struggling to put food on the table by passing a bill that cuts $40 billion from nutrition assistance programs over the next ten years. This bill would deny benefits to at least four million low-income Americans, at a time when many Americans are still struggling to find work as we continue to rebound from the Great Recession.

“SNAP is a vital tool to fight hunger and help struggling Americans. In my district, more than 13,000 households receive SNAP benefits. Although there are two million fewer jobs today than in 2007, this extreme Republican bill eliminates nutrition benefits for out-of-work adults even if they live in high unemployment areas and regardless of how hard they are trying to find work.

“Today’s bill is mean-spirited, short-sighted and one I proudly voted against. We should be working together to create jobs and grow the economy, not take food out of the mouths of hungry children.”

From Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael:

“The Tea Party fringe has yet again led the House to approve extreme legislation that will never become law. SNAP is a lifeline for millions of American families who cannot afford to eat without this modest assistance. SNAP keeps food on the table for 47 million Americans. Today’s vote was yet another example of House Republicans doubling down on their cruel austerity diet for America.”

From Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez:

“House Republicans are doubling down on a bad idea. Cutting SNAP will not only increase hunger in America, it will cost the nation jobs in the food industry. Because when poor families don’t have enough to eat, they go without. This isn’t an economic stimulus — it’s a national outrage.

“To add insult to injury, 14 members of Congress have gone so far as to vote to enrich themselves and wealthy special interests with farm subsidies, while voting against benefits to millions of the neediest and most vulnerable Americans. I issued a report earlier this year that detailed these 14 members of Congress who are collectively worth up to $124 million and received at least $7.2 million in farm subsidies but voted to cut nutrition aid for 47 million Americans without batting an eye.

“If the majority really wants to save money on food stamps, let’s raise the minimum wage so taxpayers don’t have to pick up the tab for low wage employers, and let’s pass legislation that puts people back to work. But it’s truly the height of hypocrisy to throw needy families off food stamps while taking farm subsidies for yourself.”

Posted on Thursday, September 19th, 2013
Under: Eric Swalwell, George Miller, Jared Huffman, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | 9 Comments »

Where they stand on the Syria resolution

We reached out today to the Bay Area’s House delegation and California’s U.S. Senators to see where they stand on President Obama’s draft resolution to authorize U.S. military action against the Assad regime in Syria.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Tuesday she definitely intends to support military action against Syria. “I will vote to support the president. The final text of the resolution is, as of yet, unknown, so I reserve the right to amend — for example, language to respond to a Syrian reprisal if necessary.”

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif, said at today’s Foreign Relations Committee hearing that she’ll support some sort of military-force resolution, but perhaps not the one Obama has proposed. “I believe America’s morality, America’s reputation and America’s credibility are on the line,” she said. “And I will support a targeted effort but not a blank check to respond to Syria’s unspeakable deeds to gas its own people to death.”

Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, definitely will oppose an attack on Syria, because prolonged involvement in another nation’s civil war “would leave us weak strategically while simultaneously increasing the suffering of the Syrian people,” he said in a statement issued Saturday. “Without the full support of our allies and a firm case that our national security is at risk, I cannot in good conscience vote now to commit our troops to war.”

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, also has made up her mind to oppose an attack. “We must respond to the heinous use of chemical weapons, but the danger of a military strike and its unintended consequences, including the possibility of further loss of life and the danger of escalated violence in the region, demand that we work with the international community and consider all the alternatives,” she said Tuesday.

Other local House members said it’s too early to decide.

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, said Tuesday that Obama’s draft resolution “is overly broad and therefore unacceptable as a starting point in this important debate.” It must be rewritten so Congress can consider only “a narrow and effective military strike to degrade the ability of the Assad government to use chemical weapons against its own citizens and to send a message to all nations that the United States and other countries will not tolerate the use of weapons of mass destruction.”

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, also said Tuesday that the resolution is too broad for him to support as is. “I will consider a limited U.S. military response. However, I want to make clear that I stand in strong opposition to putting troops on the ground,” he said. “Any resolution to authorize force must have clear language limiting the scope and duration of American involvement.”

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, is still monitoring the situation, spokesman Austin Vevurka said Tuesday. “He does not take the decision to authorize the use military force lightly and will not commit to voting one way or the other until he knows exactly what the authorization bill will look like, and has reviewed all the intelligence,” Vevurka said, adding Thompson wants an international coalition as part of any military response.

Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, said Tuesday that she’s “skeptical but studying the question,” a day after she and Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, jointly wrote a letter to National Security Advisor Susan Rice seeking more information. They asked Rice to specify the exact goal of a U.S. attack; what the United States would do if Syria used such weapons again even after a U.S. attack, or if Syria retaliated against Israel, Turkey or Lebanon; which allies will join the U.S. in such an attack; and what an attack’s implications would be for U.S.-Russian relations.

Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, said he won’t “support any U.S. military action that is unilateral or largely unilateral or any actions that draws us into the complicated sectarian civil war in Syria. But if Assad is indeed responsible for these brutal chemical weapons attacks, I will support building a multilateral international coalition to hold him accountable and deter further chemical weapons attacks.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, wrote to her House colleagues Tuesday telling them it’s up to them to decide. “It is in our national interest to respond to the Syrian government’s unspeakable use of chemical weapons,” she wrote, but “the shape and content of the final resolution will depend on what (House) members can support.”

“I look forward to working together on this challenge in the coming days,” she wrote. “For many, ignoring Bashar Al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons is a luxury humanity simply cannot afford.”

I’d asked lawmakers to respond by 3 p.m. today. I’ve not yet received answers from Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose; and Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo.

UPDATE @ 3:29 P.M.: Add Mike Honda to the list of those who apparently are leaning against a military strike on Syria. “There are many problems that could be exacerbated by an extended U.S. intervention, including the spread of violence to neighboring states, an increase in the al Qaeda presence in Syria, and the overwhelming impact refugees are having on their neighbors,” he said today. “I firmly believe that true stability in the region will only be achieved through long-term diplomatic commitment and broad international support.”

UPDATE @ 9:53 A.M. WEDNESDAY: McNerney spokeswoman Lauren Smith sent this statement this morning: “The Congressman continues to review the information and monitor the situation. The decision to use military force is a serious one. He will make a final decision after a House floor debate concludes and the details of the authorization bill are known. He believes that President made the right decision in seeking congressional approval.”

Posted on Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | 10 Comments »

Local lawmakers stand with fast-food workers

Several East Bay lawmakers have expressed solidarity with fast-food workers in the Bay Area and across the nation who walked picket lines Thursday to demand a $15-per-hour wage and the right to unionize without management interference.

From Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, ranking Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee:

“Today, I stand with workers across the country who are striving to build a better life for themselves and their families by fighting for a living wage. Those who work hard and play by the rules shouldn’t have to struggle to keep a roof over their head or put food on the table.

“Low pay not only harms the families forced to subsist on it, but it also holds back our recovery from the Great Recession. Better pay will put more money into local businesses and spur economic growth. That’s why a living wage is not about asking for a handout. Rather, it’s about valuing work. And it’s about growing the economy from the bottom up by increasing working families’ purchasing power. Americans on today’s picket lines aren’t just standing up for themselves – they are standing up for a stronger America.”

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

“I applaud the courageous action taken by thousands of workers around the country today by participating in the walkout for job protection and fair wages.

“To re-build our economy and expand the middle class we need to put more money into the pockets of workers in fast-growing, low-wage jobs by creating a living wage. Our goal cannot simply be to increase the minimum wage, but rather, establish a living wage, with the dignity of benefits to achieve a good standard of living to afford the basics while working one full time job.

“A living wage will increase the quality of life for low wage earning families and will lift our entire economy.

“I am proud to support the workers striking today for a living wage, and I will continue to fight to make sure families receive the fair wages they deserve.”

From Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley:

“Fast food CEOs have super-sized salaries, while their workers earn unlivable wages, wages that can’t support their own families. A single mom in Oakland with two school-age children needs to earn more than $50,000 to make ends meet, while the average fast food worker only earns between $10,000 and $18,000 a year. Families deserve a living wage. It’s just wrong for McDonald’s and others to ignore this inequity.”

The CEOs and their companies don’t own all of the fast-food outlets; many are owned by franchisees. From International Franchise Association President and CEO Steve Caldeira:

“Mandating increased wages would lead to higher prices for consumers, lower foot traffic and sales for franchise owners, and ultimately, lost jobs and opportunities for employees to become managers or franchise owners. The franchise industry is a proven job-creator and career-builder, yet efforts to double the minimum wage to $15 would clearly jeopardize opportunities for existing and prospective employees.

“Many franchises have developed successful programs designed to help employees rise from entry level to management and ultimately, ownership. Arbitrarily mandating a higher minimum wage will only reduce the amount of entry-level jobs that workers need to gain the skills to move up the employment ladder.”

“This campaign is also designed to pressure employees into organizing, generating much-needed headlines and revenue for labor unions who have faced a sharp decline in private-sector membership for years.”

Posted on Thursday, August 29th, 2013
Under: Assembly, Barbara Lee, George Miller, Labor politics, Nancy Skinner, U.S. House | 26 Comments »

More calls for Obama to consult Congress on Syria

Rep. Barbara Lee has gotten 53 other lawmakers to sign her letter urging President Barack Obama to consult Congress before taking any military action against Syria.

Much like the bipartisan letter by Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., on which I reported yesterday, Lee’s letter notes Congress bears the constitutional obligation and power to approve or reject military force.

“As such, we strongly urge you to seek an affirmative decision of Congress prior to committing any U.S. military engagement to this complex crisis,” the letter says, also calling for allowing United Nations inspectors to complete their and denouncing human-rights violations.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)In a news release, Lee, D-Oakland, said the nation must learn from its experiences in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere.

“We must recognize that what happens in Syria does not stay in Syria; the implications for the region are dire,” she said. “This letter is calling for a specific action: debate. Congress has a vital role this in this process and constitutional power that must be respected. The American people are demanding this debate before we commit our military, our money, or our forces to Syria.”

Among those who’ve signed Lee’s letter are Reps. Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; and George Miller, D-Martinez.

I’ve not seen the signatures of Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton; or Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, on any of the letters so far.

But Thompson spokesman Austin Vevurka said Thursday that his boss “believes the use of chemical weapons is appalling and he believes Congress should reconvene so there can be a full and vigorous debate on the use of military force. He also believes any military action must involve an international collation and is continuing to closely monitor the evolving situation.”

UPDATE @ 12:14 P.M.: McNerney spokeswoman Lauren Smith said her boss believes “we need to find a balanced policy that is based on sound and thorough intelligence, and he believes the president should be consulting leaders from both parties in the House and Senate.” Note: McNerney’s call to consult leadership stops short of Lee’s letter, which urges Obama “to seek an affirmative decision of Congress prior to committing any U.S. military engagement to this complex crisis.”

UPDATE @ 1:33 P.M.: “Right now the President is still reviewing his options as Commander in Chief,” Swalwell spokeswoman Allison Bormel says. “Should he choose to take action that requires congressional approval, Rep. Swalwell believes the Administration should consult Congress.”

Posted on Thursday, August 29th, 2013
Under: Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Obama presidency, Sam Farr, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 6 Comments »