Pelosi Remarks This Afternoon at United Steelworkers International Women's Conference

Oct 18, 2010
Press Release

Contact: Brendan Daly/Nadeam Elshami/Drew Hammill, 202-226-7616

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks at the at the United Steelworkers (USW) International Women’s Conference this afternoon in Pittsburgh, PA. The theme of the conference is “Women of Steel – World of Women.” The conference is designed to enhance the leadership skills of the union’s women. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

“Thank you, President Leo Gerard! More than 20 years ago, Leo Gerard decided that there would be a discrete entity called the ‘Women of Steel’ — where women’s leadership would be recognized in the union and be manifested in local unions and in communities across our country. Because of you, and Leo’s idea, your working together has become a movement — a movement called ‘Women of Steel’ and I’m here to salute you.

“I’d like to acknowledge the Director of ‘Women of Steel,’ Ann Flener, World of Women Conference Chair, Leeann Anderson, United Steelworker Vice President Tom Conway, for their leadership.

“I’d also like to say a word to all of you about how much I admire your courage and your work with the ‘Women of Steel’ in Cananea, Mexico, where you have demonstrated that there is strength in numbers. I think it’s very important because we talk about big ideas, we talk about a movement, but this directly affects the daily lives of these women. You stood in solidarity with the striking miners there. More significantly, they have had a unique challenge facing them: whether it’s buying diapers for their babies, feeding their children, the day-to-day — in a situation where some of their children in schools are faced with discrimination because other people want to end the strike.

“So this isn’t easy, but this solidarity that ‘Women of Steel’ had with these women of Mexico is something so admirable and I thank you and recognize that.

“Struggling families — that’s what our conversation will be about today. In our country, we have a great challenge facing us. I think it’s really important to note, as President Gerard said, there’s a reason we’re in this situation.

“Republicans took us to the brink of disaster with the financial crisis, to the depths of the recession, nearly a depression, and we had to pull back from that. In the meantime, they have stood in the way of the change in many cases that we have tried to make in terms of increasing the number of jobs in our country.

“What we want to say is in this election; let’s continue to take America forward. We’re not going back to the failed policies of the past.

Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

“As you all have been in solidarity with the women in Mexico, we are all, in our country, women in solidarity with each other. That’s why as Speaker, I was very, very proud that the first bill that President Obama signed was the Lilly Ledbetter [Fair Pay] Act to give women a chance in the workplace. We in the House have also passed the Paycheck Fairness Act. I know you heard from Rosa DeLauro earlier — she’s a sponsor — we passed it in the House, Senator Reid has said the Senate will take it up for a vote when we come back after the election. Again, you all are great, you’re the Steelworkers, you have great jobs — the fact is that many women in America need to have more paycheck fairness. Thank you for being in solidarity.

“In his remarks, Leo Gerard talked about jobs. It’s just a four-letter word we use all the time: jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. In everything that we do, we have to take the measure as the President so eloquently says, ‘We will measure our success by the progress that is being made by America’s working families.’ And of course, that relates directly to the creation of jobs. It’s not enough to put the people back to work, we need many, many more jobs, good-paying jobs that take us to a stronger, more stabilized economy. And that’s exactly what we did for starters, and much more needs to be done.

“After the President signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act, as you know, his Inaugural Address, he went to the steps of the Capitol, he talked about ‘harnessing the sun, and the wind, and the soil to run our cars, fuel our factories.’ He talked about jobs of the 21st century, education for our workforce to be competitive internationally. He talked about health care for all Americans as a right, not a privilege. He talked about a large number of things. And he asked for ‘swift, bold, action now.’ One week and one day after the President’s speech, the House of Representatives passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. One week and one day.

“That legislation, according to the economists, has saved or created 3.6 million jobs. Not enough. Not enough, but saved. Economists also tell us, from right to left, that without that legislation and other pieces of legislation like Cash for Clunkers and other bills, and other federal action, if those actions had not been taken at the federal level, 8.5 million more people in our country would be out of work. We would have an unemployment rate of 14.5 percent. We would be even more deeply in debt than we are. That’s what the Bush Administration’s economic policies gave us. The Republicans say that if they took over, they would go back to the ‘exact same’ agenda. We are not going back.

“So while we are certainly not satisfied with the rate of job creation, and as President Gerard said, many of initiatives we have put forth on the Senate side for job creation have been held up. As the President has acknowledged, a political reason, which may pay off —that Republicans think might pay off for them politically, but hurt America’s working families. We must win and we will win this election.

“When we leave here, I want you to tell your friends something they may not know. In the first eight months of 2010, more jobs were created in the private sector in our country, than in the eight years of the Bush Administration. Did you know that? Take pride in it. Of course we want more.

“We were very proud with the Recovery Act, we insisted on the Davis Bacon prevailing wage. We won that fight early on.

Undisclosed Special Interest Money

“You see what’s happening now in this election. All of this money that is pouring in from special interests, unidentified, unlimited money from any source, including foreign sources. And why is that? What is it that they want to stop or reverse?

“Well, one thing that really makes them angry is the fact that we passed the Wall Street reform bill. What we said in that bill is never again will the recklessness of some on Wall Street, cause joblessness for many on Main Street. People have lost their jobs, their homes, their savings, their pensions, the money they put aside for their children’s higher education, because there were those on Wall Street who thought it was okay, when things were good, to privatize the game. But when things got bad, to nationalize the risk and send the bill to the taxpayers and make the consumers pay the price.

“This bill — the Wall Street reform bill — has reforms that are the greatest in decades. And has a Consumer Protection Agency in it, has consumer protections that are the greatest in the history of our country. The banks and the credit card companies don’t like that at all. They’d like to take over Social Security. Why don’t you have a little Social Security account out of your Social Security money?

“We’re saying ‘no’ to privatizing Social Security; ‘yes’ to preserving Social Security.

“And so, they’re pouring millions of dollars into the campaigns. The health insurance industry would like to own Medicare. They’d like to voucherize it, so they’d say to citizens: ‘Here’s your voucher, you’re on your own.’ No, we’re going to preserve Social Security and Medicare. We’re not going to let it be privatized or cut Medicare. That is the difference — one of the differences.

Health Insurance Reform

“Wall Street is also unhappy because when we passed the health care bill, we passed the biggest program for affordability for higher education in our country, certainly since the GI Bill of the 1940s. This meant there was increased funding for Pell Grants to make them more available and in making college more affordable and lowing interest rates on student loans so that families were paying less and banks were not getting more. They’re very unhappy about that.

“It’s a very important piece of legislation because it expands coverage for 32 million more Americans. It improves quality, lowers cost. And just toward the end of September, the Patient’s Bill of Rights, went into effect, which said no more lifetime limits on coverage, that children could not be denied coverage because they had a pre-existing medical condition. It said that children could stay on their parents’ policy until they were 26 years old — very important to young people. And under this legislation — you know that women have been discriminated against in the medical market — no longer will being a woman be a pre-existing medical condition.

“You know we had some — Leo can tell you this because he was front and center on so much of this — we had some times where people thought maybe this bill would not pass. Am I right, Leo? And it never entered my mind that it wouldn’t, because we knew that it was urgent, that it was necessary, that the opportunity was there. So sometimes the press would say to me: ‘How do you expect to get this bill passed? You have so many obstacles.’ No longer have 60 votes in the Senate. And I said to them: ‘We’ll go up to the gate and we’ll push the gate open. And if the gate is locked, we’ll climb over the fence. And if the fence is too high, we’ll pole vault in. And if that doesn’t work, we’re going to parachute in.’ But we’re not going to let anything stand in the way of health care for all Americans as a right, not a privilege.

“So after we finished and we passed it, the press came back. They said: ‘Which one did you do?’ I said, ‘Actually, we pushed open the gate. We went up to that gate 220 Members strong, and we pushed that gate open.’ But we were not alone. You were there with us. You were there with us. You helped us elect those brave Members, but you were also there with your outside mobilization and your calling in which made it just so inspiring and inevitable that this would happen. So I’m here to say thank you to all of you for your role that you played in it. We needed everything we had. It simply could not have happened without the ‘Women of Steel’ and the United Steelworkers. Thank you all very much.

“So, the morning after the bill passed, the President called me and he said: ‘Last night, when the bill passed the House of Representatives, the health care bill passed through the House of Representatives, I was happier than I was the night I was elected President of the United States.’ Is that beautiful? I believe that is so. I said, ‘Mr. President, I was pretty happy last night too, but I wasn’t happier than the night you were elected President of the United States, because if you weren’t elected President of the United States, without your vision, your persuasion, you commitment — we would not have had that victory last night.’ It certainly would not have happened without Barack Obama. But it certainly would have not happened without each and every one of you. Thank you, ‘Women of Steel.’ Thank you, Leo Gerard.

“One of the things that Republicans say is that they are going to repeal when they come in. So, it isn’t good enough that we passed this historic legislation, that it’s going to make a difference in the lives of the American people, that young people or people newly out of the kitchen as I was when I went to Congress, would be able to say that I want to be self-employed, I want to start a business, I want to change jobs, I want to have flexibility.

“That’s what this bill gives them. Not only them, but to our economy — that vitality to our economy. It’s about innovation, it’s about wellness, it’s about not only health care for America, it about the health — the good health of America, it’s about prevention, not amputation, it’s about diet, not diabetes, it’s about something so special. You wouldn’t recognize it the way it has been characterized, but the fact is, we have passed it, it is the law, and now we must protect it by a big Democratic victory in November.

“Republicans say they won’t fund it, and they won’t fund the Wall Street reform, and won’t address the affordability for our young people. We cannot let that happen.

‘Make It in America’

“One of the centerpieces for how we go forward — coming back to jobs that Leo mentioned earlier—is our initiative called ‘Make It in America.’ We believe that if we manufacture it in America, we enable people and their families to ‘Make It in America.’ And I want to salute the steelworkers in this respect because Leo has been on this case for a long time and President Becker before him. I want to salute you for your patriotism and the contribution that you make to the national security of our country. It is absolutely essential for us to have a solid industrial and manufacturing base so we can provide our country what it needs to protect the American people.

“And I want to salute the families of the steelworkers, many are veterans, some of the women here are veterans. And I want to thank you and acknowledge how grateful we are to our men and women in uniform for their service, their sacrifice, and their courage. And we can honor their sacrifice by making sure that when they come home, they have jobs to come home to. And when they go to protect us, that they have the tools that they need. And to the extent that our manufacturing and industrial base is eroded and our technological base is eroded, we weaken our strength. We don’t have any intention of that happening.

“So one answer to that, one initiative about that is to ‘Make It in America.’ And some of the incentives that are there is, for example, before the end of the session, both Houses of Congress passed and the President signed into legislation that would repeal a tax credit for companies that sent jobs overseas. Imagine, they sent jobs overseas and they got a tax credit to do that. That has to go.

“Second thing we have to do is to make sure that we are treated fairly. For example, a country like China — we want reciprocity. They want to bid on business in the United States from the federal government; we want to bid on business in China by the Chinese government. What’s so unfair about that? We is fair about it is that we have reciprocity.

Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act

“Another big point is one that we have all been working on, is the currency legislation. It’s very, very important. By manipulating their currency, the Chinese put their thumb on the scale, to the tune of about 1 million American jobs. Oh, by the way, 3 million American jobs went overseas during the Bush Administration. 3 million jobs — wouldn’t we like to have them back? And they got a tax credit in some cases for sending them there. But the currency manipulation is very important because it is essentially a subsidy for Chinese exports coming into the United States. It’s just not right. It’s just not fair.

“And I can’t think of anybody who has been a stronger leader, more articulate spokesperson, and more persistent advocate for changing that policy than the United Steelworkers under the leadership of Leo Gerard. Thank you, Leo for your leadership in that regard.

“And so issues like this — be fair, reciprocity — our own people here, our own government buy products that are ‘Made In America.’ We can do this all in keeping and being in compliance with the World Trade Organization. All of our legislation, including the Chinese manipulation legislation is in compliance with the WTO. We’re in compliance; we want other countries to be in compliance with it as well.

“So, it is essential. It is a decision that our country must make. That in order for our families to ‘Make It in America,’ that we make a stronger commitment to manufacturing in America.

“And I thank all of you for what you are doing —‘Women of Steel’— in terms of the new-green technology for clean-energy jobs of the future. Thank you for what you do in that regard because that is place where we will have our green revolution. We had the Industrial Revolution, we had the technological revolution, this [is the] green revolution.

“Again, Leo Gerard, working in the Blue Green Alliance has been a champion for this because you have to see beyond the current economy to new opportunities. The rest of the world is not waiting for us to take action in this regard. They are fully in play in terms of developing renewable and alternative energy sources. And in our country, ‘Women of Steel,’ United Steelworkers are leading the way. Thank you for your leadership.

“I know that some of you do the hardest jobs in the country. You’re not all steelworkers, some of you, again, care for people and teach our children and do other things. But you all are part of building a better future for our country and that is our responsibility. And that is why, again, in terms of women I am so pleased that we did Lilly Ledbetter, and hopefully we will do Paycheck Fairness.

“We also have made the biggest investment in small businesses. We passed this bill — the Senate, the President signed it, $30 billion leveraged to $300 billion for investments in small business, many of them women and minority owned, that’s the fastest growing segment of that. Our veterans benefit from that as well.

“So we’re talking about the creation of jobs, we’re talking about addressing the disparity in our country of income, where the wealthy people continue to get wealthier, and some other people are falling out of the middle class, when we want to bring many more people into the middle class. But that disparity is not just about wages alone, that disparity is about ownership and equity. It’s all about fairness in our country.

“And we believe that the health care bill is about jobs, the energy bill is about jobs, the education bill is about jobs, certainly, the Recovery Act is about jobs. But again, we want more. And when people have those jobs, we want them to be able to bargain collectively. We want to pass the Employee Free Choice Act as well.

“So, we have a big agenda. We have a lot of work to do in the next two and a half weeks to make sure we’re in position to continue to take the country in a ‘New Direction.’ I know you’re from all over the country. You are here in this great state of Pennsylvania. I wasn’t too happy about the Giants and Phillies last night, but nonetheless, two great teams.

“I believe that in this great victory that we are going to have on November 2 that Pennsylvania will lead the way. Pennsylvania will lead the way in the House and in the Senate, in the state-wide offices, because of the energy that I have seen. The understanding that people have that this election is about a choice.

“Everybody knows that we’re in the fix that we are in because of the policies of President Bush and we don’t want to go back to that. Everybody knows that President Obama and the Democratic Congress have done a great deal to address that. We all know that not enough has been accomplished. We need many, many more jobs. We need to protect the initiatives that we have taken about health care, and energy, and even though we haven’t passed an energy bill, other bills have moved us in a forward direction — toward reducing our dependence on foreign oil, which is a national security issue, have reduced our emissions in the air, which is a health issue, have contributed to initiatives that you’re involved in to be number one technologically in the world, and that it is a moral responsibility for us to pass on to future generations a planet that is one that we have responsibly passed on. If you believe that I do that it is God’s creation, then we have a moral responsibility to do that.

“But you’re on the forefront of all of these issues. I know that between now and election day — and actually many places voting is going on right now — early voting — I think that I cannot be in a better place with a fuller appreciation of how important this election is.

“It’s a choice as the President said, between moving America forward or going back to the failed policies. I have said it before, I’ll say it again: We’re not going back. And we’re not going back and we’re going to win because the ‘Women of Steel’ are going to help us lead the way in our country to that great victory.

“Thank you all very much. God bless you. God bless America. Thank you, ‘Women of Steel.’ Thank you, Leo Gerard.”