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Pelosi Remarks at Press Event on the PRO Act

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined House Democrats, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and labor leaders for a press event on H.R. 2474, the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, important legislation to restore fairness to the economy by strengthening the federal laws that protect workers’ right to join a union.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Good afternoon, everyone.  It is a great honor to be here today wearing this beautiful acknowledgement: Pass the PRO Act, AFL-CIO.  

In the Congress of the United States, the House Democratic Caucus is beautifully diverse.  Sixty percent of our Caucus are people of color, women, LGBTQ, but we have diversity geographically, generationally, across the country, in every possible way, we have diversity of opinion.  People thank me for being a unifier of our Caucus, but that isn’t true.  What unifies our Caucus are our values.  And the overwhelming value that supersedes any difference we may have is our commitment to America’s working families.  

[Applause] 

That is why I am so proud to stand here ¬–

[Applause] 

That’s why I am so proud to stand here ¬with Richard Trumka, the President of the AFL-CIO; Chris Shelton, President of Communication Workers of America; Jennifer Dorning, President of Department for Professional Employees of the AFL-CIO; John Samuelson, President, Transport Workers Union; Jim Slevin, President, Utilities Workers Union of America; Tim Driscoll, President, International Union for Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers; and representatives of many other unions who are here with us today. 

I am proud to join the Chair of the Education and Labor Committee, Chairman Bobby Scott, and salute him for his leadership.  He is a champion of workers.  

Some Members of his Committee are with us.  Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who is Chair of the Subcommittee that produced the PRO Act.  Donald [Norcross] of New Jersey, a real champion, a former member of a union himself.  And again, a champion for America’s working families, proud to be going to New Jersey to be with him shortly.  Pramila Jayapal of Washington State.  And Representative Andy Levin, one of our Freshmen Members, but effective from the start for America’s workers. 

Again, this is about stemming the assault that the Republicans are making on the rights of working men and women in our country.  Many of you know that we all believe that the middle class is the backbone of our democracy.  And you all know, also, that the middle class has a union label on it.  

So, I thank our friends in labor for their patriotism and I am proud to be able to be here with them with this legislation.  And what it does, it holds companies that violate workers’ rights accountable, strengthens workers’ sacred collective bargaining rights and protects access to fair union elections.  But you will hear more about that from our Members of Congress.  

I also want to acknowledge that we have a VIP here, she is our special guest of honor, Jennifer Womack, and she is a person who will tell us of her experience, and that is what is important about legislation – how it affects America’s workers.  

And with that, I am very pleased to yield to the distinguished Chair of the Education and Labor Committee, Chairman Bobby Scott, and thank you for your leadership.

***

Speaker Pelosi.  So, here we are, a day away from passing this historic, important legislation.  We all want to talk about a seat at the table, the most important table to us is America’s kitchen tables, where families come together to make decisions about their families.  And we don’t want them to have to struggle unnecessarily, when there is an opportunity for them to do better.  And I want to thank the AFL-CIO and all in the labor movement for what they have done to make the future better for so many families in America.  

I particularly want to say that equal pay for equal work is a principle that we would love to have established in the Congress.  We passed in the House, we want it to be passed in the Senate for the whole country.  The labor movement has been in the lead from Rosie the Riveter, even, going all the way back, even probably before then.  So, thank you for that. 

And last night, we heard that low-income people’s wages were going up and wasn’t that wonderful – well, it had nothing to do with the person who was talking about it and it had everything to do with raising the minimum wage, as Congresswoman Jayapal mentioned, throughout the country, and that was under the leadership of the AFL-CIO.  The Fight for Fifteen, which we passed in the House, we hope to pass in the Senate, but it has been enacted into law in many, many states in our country and our city of San Francisco, as well, and that is with the leadership of the AFL-CIO. 

Last night, I talked to a young woman – well, she was young to me.  

[Laughter]  

And she told me, when we came into Congress the first time in the Majority in 2007, in the first 100 hours, we passed an increase in the minimum wage.  That was 2007.  There hasn’t been an increase since then, so that meant they’re making, what, $7.25 an hour for all these years, without the right to organize, to do better, there hasn’t been a raise for her since – for twelve years.  And having to be a mom and raise a family and the rest of that.

So, with the leadership of the AFL-CIO, we’re doing so many things, including lifting up everyone with increasing the minimum wage.  But as Chairman Scott mentioned, even if you don’t belong to a union, the lift that the labor movement gives to all workers lifts everyone up.  So, I thank you for that.  

This is so important to America.  It’s so important to our economy.  Our economy – nothing is more important to our economy than the education of our children and also to have purchasing power on the part of the middle class.  That can only happen when workers get respected for the work that they do and receive the wages and salaries that they deserve.  And so, PRO Act is a vehicle in that direction.  It’s going to be a day of celebration.  We’re very excited about it and we hope to have a big, strong vote and we invite Republicans to join us for that – for the American people, for the children.  

Thank you all very much.

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