HOUSTON, TEXAS –U.S. House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told a packed crowd of mostly Democrat women in Houston that she is on a crusade to increase minimum wage, achieve paycheck
fairness, establish more paid sick leave and increase the availability of child care, especially for sick children. Pelosi and two other Democrat women Members of Congress were speaking on a panel titled, “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds.”
For women to succeed, Pelosi said the government must do three things: increase the minimum wage; establish a balance between responsibilities at work and at home; and, establish more robust early childhood learning programs and day care.
Houston Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee provided more specifics in her statements, demanding an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour and child day care that is 24/7, 365 days per year. Lee did not stop there with opening the federal checkbook. She said we must provide paid time off for individuals under an expanded employee medical leave program.
As to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), passed out of the House under then Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Lee said this was “the best thing since the Civil Rights Movement.” Pelosi said she was “very proud” of the ACA. Computers were set up at the event for people who wished to sign up. There were no lines of people waiting to use the terminals.
Pelosi called for more paid sick time for parents saying, “Often a mother must put a sick child on the bus because she has nowhere to take them.”
“Women on average work the first the months of the year free,” Pelosi said referring to the perceived inequity of pay between genders.
Because women owned and minority-women owned businesses represent what she called the “fastest growing segment of new businesses”, Pelosi said, “I am on a crusade for early childhood learning and daycare.” She said we must look at “parents earning, children learning.” After visiting the Barbara Jordan International Pre-school where there is a pre-school/daycare facility downstairs and a school upstairs, Pelosi changed the phrase to “parents LEARNING, children learning.”
Congresswoman Lee, demanded minimum wage be raised to $10.10/hour for most workers and over $7/hour for tip-based workers. No mention was made about the potential inflationary pressures these increased salaries could spark or the potential of job losses due to increased labor costs to business. There was also no discussion of the cost of the 24/7/365 daycare or paid employee emergency medical leave.
Given the defiant calls for federal intervention into women and children’s lives for a leg-up in the 21st Century American economy, local voices elevated in the event were women that achieved great success on their own merits.
The event featured many women speaking who told their stories of overcoming life’s situations to rise to the top in their areas of expertise. Most of them said they did so without public assistance. Maria Rios, a Salvadorian immigrant, talked about her working her way through college with the help of her husband on just his salary. She graduated from the University of Houston and began looking for opportunity. She was working for a large trash company and as she drove around Houston she said, “When I see trash, I see opportunity.”
She developed a business plan and took it to a bank that believed in her model and financed her first two trucks. From there, with many years of hard work, she built the business to many trucks and many dumpsters. She applied to the City of Houston for a major trash contract that was not covered, she said, by minority business quotas. She was told she would never get that away from the large trash companies. Despite this, her company, Nations Waste, Inc., was awarded a multi-million dollar contract with the city of Houston. She has been recognized locally and by President Obama as one of the nation’s outstanding business leaders. “We stressed quality service,” Rios said. “Nothing is impossible if you work hard and follow your dreams,” she told the crowd of mostly young women.
Allison Sawyer, founder and CEO of Rebellion Photonics, told a similar story of achievement through excellence. She was raised by a single mother and despite never having taken physics in high school, she now is the CEO of one of the nation’s largest applied physics companies in America. Her company developed technology, initially incubated at Rice University, which detects gas leaks at chemical plants, pipelines and offshore oil platforms before they rise to explosive levels.
Other speakers included Congresswoman Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) who was the first black woman elected to Congress from Alabama; Saru, Jayaraman, co-founder, co-director, ROC United; ABC-13’s Cynthia Cisneros and Maria Sesson who spoke about wrong choices in her early life that left her abandoned by a husband with four children and who was living on public assistance until she, through hard work and education, was able to finally buy her own home and get off welfare.
The event was part of a multi-city tour Pelosi said she has been on since Congress recessed for Spring Break.
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