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Pelosi Remarks at Communications Workers of America Biennial Legislative Conference

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks today at the Communications Workers of America (CWA) Biennial Legislative Conference:

"Good morning everyone. Thank you for your wonderful welcome. I was very honored to be welcomed by Californians, specifically our San Francisco escort committee. Thank you San Franciscans, to the Californians who are here. And I met some folks from Baltimore who are here.

"We all have many connections, we go back a long way. So, coming to see you at CWA this morning is for me, a family matter. You have been part of the life of the American people. Seventy years ago, some operators got together and decided to work for better wages, working conditions, benefits, and the rest. That is a value, that is a tradition, that is a vision. Imagine the courage of those people that you all uphold.

"Your visionary leader, Larry Cohen, oh my goodness, what a force of nature he is. When Larry speaks, when I was hearing him speak about taking back the House and the agenda that we need to implement for America's working families and the reform that we must bring to our whole political system, when he speaks we all listen, we're all inspired. He is a great leader. Thank you, Larry Cohen, for your leadership.

"I also want to acknowledge Secretary-Treasurer Annie Hill.

"Jim Weitkamp, CWA Vice President for District 9, which includes my home state of California.

"And, not to mention, all of the San Franciscans here today.

"It's an honor to bring greetings to you from my colleagues in the House of Representatives. We talk about working to take back the House, to achieve the majority. I want you to know how much all of the Democrats in the Congress appreciate your leadership, your friendship, and your support. And I accept the compliments that your distinguished President has extended to me as Speaker. But I accept it on behalf of all my Members, who work so hard to make our legislative victories possible. And now, our election victory possible, so that we can get back to work to put people to work.

"When I was coming in, I heard the resolution that you had endorsed the reelection of President Barack Obama. Thank you for doing that. I just left listening to the President at the National Prayer Breakfast. You would have been very proud to hear his expression of values, springing from a very spiritual life, about the justice, about the links to our brethren in our society, and the fairness that we owe each other. It was beautiful. It was inspiring. And it is easy to understand why this man, this great President, has tried to treat everyone with respect, including our Republican opponents. And sometimes that respect is not reciprocated. But it is deep within him, that we respect every person. And that's what makes him such a great President.

"So, his reelection is essential to the country. His reelection will ensure, also, that we will help each other. As we win the House, we'll help him become President. As he wins the White House, he will help us elect a Democratic Congress, both House and Senate. We have work to do to get that done.

"Those telephone workers who came together seventy years ago, they had a commitment to values and respect, to the dignity of the work of every person. And so, it was their calling to do something, collectively, to do something as a group, on behalf of all. And that calling is one that we share with you.

"The Democrats in the Congress are committed to reigniting the American dream--that those operators had way back then. The American dream, which has been the most enduring theme of our country. That the future would be better for the next generation and that we all had a responsibility to make it so. Reigniting the American dream, building ladders of opportunity for all, removing obstacles to success for all. We want to work hard, play by the rules, take responsibility. That is an agenda that we share. And it manifests itself on a regular basis in the legislation we advance or call upon to support.

"Right now, our fight for fairness, and opportunity, and ladders of success is centered on a bill that we must pass immediately, which is to extend the payroll tax cut for 160 million Americans. I had a speaking program at the prayer breakfast too, I guess I lost my voice.

"How can it be that the Republicans are saying: "we can't have the payroll tax cut for 160 million Americans unless we pay for it, but we are renewing tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent in our country, and not paying for that. And by the way, tax cuts for the wealthy aren't paid for, that's their jobs program. Ask them what they want to do to create jobs? Give tax cuts to the wealthiest people in our country, unpaid for, that's what they said. All it does is deepen the deficit. And it's important for you to know, and I've said this to some of you in our telephone conference before, in the second year of the Obama Administration, we don't have all the figures for the third year, in the second year of the Obama Administration, more jobs were created in the private sector then in the whole eight years of the Bush Administration. We have not seen a jobs bill from the Republican majority in the Congress, in the House of Representatives. Extend the payroll tax cut.

"The next thing we want to do, is to extend unemployment benefits for those who are out of work through no fault of their own. Millions of Americans are depending on that. Traditionally, we have not paid for the unemployment benefit, people have paid into that, it is their due. But nonetheless, Republicans are now saying we have to pay for that. No touching tax cuts for the wealthy, but pay again for the middle class, for the unemployment benefit. These two elements: the payroll tax cut and the unemployment insurance benefits extension, would do more to create jobs because people will spend that money, inject demand into the economy, create jobs. It's not only good for the individual, it's necessary for our economic growth. We must do that. I'd rather not do it paid for, I'm prepared to do it almost at any cost.

"We must work to extend to tens of millions of seniors their opportunity to see their doctor under Medicare. This is very, very important.

"So, that's right now. What we're talking about right now is happening here. Legislators are meeting to come to a conclusion. I think it should be very simple. You want to pay for it, pay for it with a surcharge on the wealthiest people in our country. If you don't want to pay for it that way, let's hear what you have to say. But we're not going grant to the middle class with one hand--the payroll tax cut, and unemployment benefits, and the ability to see their doctors--and take from them with the other hand by saying: "and now you're going to have pay for the costs,' by seniors paying or whatever it is. For two reasons: it's just not fair, but it would also blunt the stimulative effect of what these measures would do.

"So let's just talk about the Republican attack on workers. We know that, the fight is about the payroll tax, the unemployment benefits and all the rest. And we hope that that will be resolved very soon. And like we said, in another week or two.

"Last September, we talked about our reigniting the American dream so that all workers have the opportunity to succeed. Republicans have a different agenda. Last September, they passed what so many--George Miller, a real champion for workers in our country--we relabeled it the "Outsourcers Bill of Rights,' I went further then that and called the bill: the "Outsourcers Bill of Wrongs.' It would gut the National Labor Relations Board, it would make it easier for corporations to ship jobs overseas. Imagine that the Republicans had, as the law that they passed, and we must overturn, giving tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas. Is that insane? We must change that. And then it would allow employers to punish employees for simply exercising their right to organize, to demand better benefits and safer working conditions, to ensure a full days' pay for a full days' work. That's what they proposed in September.

"But it's been a consistent message for them. And some of it, they just want to extend, what they did long ago. So, while Republicans want to make it easier to outsource jobs, Democrats are instead saying: "Make It In America.' Make It In America. Because we know, Democrats know, that when we make it--as my deputy, the Democratic Whip, Mr. Hoyer says: "when we Make It In America,' manufactured here, "people can Make It In America.' Democrats--it's as simple as A, B, C to us: A: American made, B: build the infrastructure of America, C: community leadership to get this done. And that takes us to your campaign for clean campaigns and taking back our country. On the subject of making it in America, we must stop the outsourcing of jobs, from call centers, to manufacturing, to software development, and start insourcing jobs. We must stop the erosion of our manufacturing, and technological, and industrial base. And we must support our small businesses and entrepreneurs--the engines of economic growth--providing incentives for them to do new hires here. And ensuring they can grow and thrive. So that our middle class can grow and thrive.

"In November, Republicans passed legislation to stack the deck against workers in work place elections. This legislation would deny workers their right to free and fair elections to form a union. It adds extensive delays to the process of workers organizing, with the clear intention, as my friend, former Chairman--soon to be Chairman again--George Miller said, "wearing down workers so that they give up fighting for a better deal.' Well, no matter what the deal is, the CWA and your friends in Congress, your Democratic friends in Congress, will never stop fighting for a better deal. They will not wear us down.

"And, as you probably know, from my opening comments, I have great respect for the visionary leadership of Larry Cohen and of the CWA. I have for years. You've been there for America's workers, seventy years at least now, and a brilliant future ahead.

"I do believe that the fight that we have, and I come here to thank you for your leadership role in what is happening now. We're never really going to have a day, or shot to get, what we need for fairness in our economy, opportunity for all people, respect and value of work, until we change the political climate in our country. It must be done. In fact, the special interests in our country can spend unlimited, unidentified money from God knows where--maybe he doesn't even know where--to spend on campaigns. To deluge, just flood campaigns with endless money to the tune of tens of hundreds of millions of dollars, to dampen, to lessen the voice of the people.

"And they've coupled that with their initiatives to suppress the vote throughout the country. You know this very well, you are in the lead in this fight. But I've come here to thank you for that leadership, and to commit to you, that we cannot reignite the American dream and do all we want for ladders of opportunity, unless we offset that money. And offsetting means: we have to win the election; to reform the system, to amend the Constitution, so that the constitutional--the Citizens United decision--will not stand. This undermines the voices of the American people. Both by the use of money, and by initiatives that throw up barriers--making it harder for people to have access to the voting booth. We have, under the leadership of Jim Clyburn, our Assistant Leader, he has set up an arrangement where we, he's gone around the country, we complain about the policy, we think it's wrong, we want to win to reverse it. But in the meantime, we're going to make sure that people who are able to vote, have the right to vote, can vote, and that their vote will be counted.

"So we have an initiative right now, to say: Disclose. The American people have a right to know whose money is coming in from these special interests in the elections. In the last election, one of the biggest sources of money, of course we had Wall Street coming in against us and Big Oil--the usual suspects, but there was an enormous amount of money coming in from people who were against the Employee Free Choice Act, the card check. They feared, they don't want to have the inconvenience, in their view, of workers having the right to bargain collectively. It's just plain wrong. It's just plain wrong. It's just plain wrong.

"So we had to diminish, but people would tell me, you were at the table. I said: "you think it's just Wall Street, Big Oil, big insurance--health insurance--and it is, but it's also all this other anti-labor money that is coming in. Well, if they want to send that money that way, the American people, their employees, their customers, should know that. Because that visibility, I think, will help us defeat them. In California, where we do have the disclosure law, for state elections.

"So, disclose right now. We demand to know. Win. Win the election, and then, one of the first bills we would put on the floor would be to reform the system. We want our legislation to be a new politics free of the special interests money in politics. Amplifying the voice of the American people. And as I said, amend the Constitution, which is a longer road, but an organizing tool for us, to capture the spirit in our country, that our democracy is not well served by the voices of the people being drowned out by this unlimited money. And again, as you are doing, we must strike to remove those obstacles to voter participation, which President Cohen called "democracy blocks.' Together, we must fight--oh, by the way, to my sisters who are in the audience, I believe that if we reform the campaign system, and if we have, what we call "clean elections,' where we have diminished the role of money in campaigns, we will do more to increase the number of elected women in public office. We want more women in public office.

"I believe that nothing is more wholesome for the political process then the increased participation of women and minorities, reflecting the full faith of America in our elective body, making decisions for our families. So, again, we don't want to think incrementally about, "oh hopefully we can elect five more women, or ten more women this time, this many more Hispanics and that many more African-Americans in the U.S. We want to think in a transformative way. When our country was founded and people went to Congress, by and large it was white men. By and large our country were white people who had the right to vote, that's not what the situation is now. So, we want, why can't we have our country's representatives be representative of our country?

"My sisters in the crowd will understand my reference to this: it's nine months until the election. My Members of Congress quiver when I do these kinds of, shall we say, non-sports references. Nine months. And you know what nine months is symbolic of? That every single day has to be a strengthening, nourishing day, to bring us closer to our victory on that Tuesday in November.

"So much is at stake. Fairness. Opportunity. The thriving middle class which is the backbone of our democracy. And I dare say, as you well know, and I love this, I can't wait to take it back to my colleagues [Leader Pelosi holds up a copy of the CWA newsletter]--broken democracy. We have to fix it. And we can only fix it if we win the election. And we can only win the election if we have the voice of many more people participating. So, what you are doing. The power of your ideas. The strength of the mobilizations into your communities to encourage people to vote, to participate, and aren't we proud of what's happening in Wisconsin? Isn't that just a beautiful display.

"We come here to pay respects to what people did many years ago. Decades ago. To create the CWA. And in doing so, strengthen working families in America. Strengthen our middle class, strengthen our democracy. We owe it to our founders, to keep it going for our democracy. Not to sit back and watch it be broken by unlimited secret money.

"We owe it to our men and women in uniform, to bring a future worthy of the sacrifice that they make for our country.
And aren't we grateful to our men and women in uniform? And thank you, to many of you in the audience, who have served our country. They fight for our freedoms. They make us the land of the free and the home of the brave. And when they come home, you know in the military there's an expression: "on the battlefield we leave no soldier behind.' And when they come home, we leave no veteran behind. That doesn't just mean veteran's benefits, as committed as we are to that, having increased more than, since the G.I. Bill, that means being able for them to get a job. Because we owe them a paycheck. To have a family. Again, serving them. Honoring them. We, again, strengthen our country.

"And, in addition to honoring the vision of our founders, the service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform, it's about the aspirations of our children, coming back to that American dream. Our founders had this in mind and they declared that our country would exist for the ages. That's what they saidÂ… on the great seal of the United States: "for the ages.' And it was predicated on the idea that every generation, again, I keep saying, had a responsibility to make the future better for the next. And that was always the case. And it soon became known as the American dream. People flocked to our shores in search of it. And every immigrant who came, and does come now, with their optimism, their hope, their determination to make the future better for their families, makes America more American. By their energy, and their family values, and their commitment to a better future.

"So, thank you for your support of the DREAM Act, for our kids of newcomers to our country. Thank you so very much. Because, whether its specific legislation, or it's the bigger vision under which all of this legislation will get, it's all about having a better public policy to improve the lives of the American people. To reignite the American dream. In order to do that, we have to win the election. I feel very good about that. How do you feel?

"Are you ready for a great Democratic victory in November? Are you ready for another Democratic majority? As Vice President Biden said the other day, "you'll not only be the first woman Speaker of the House, you'll be the second woman Speaker of the House.'

"But it's not about me. It's about the American people and the need for us to have a Democratic majority. Whoever is in charge. So that we can work together with newly reelected President Barack Obama to reignite the American dream.

"Thank you CWA! Thank you Larry! God bless you! God bless America!"


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