Several Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives rode into Albany on Sunday and used Davies Office Refurbishing Inc. as a backdrop to push for their women’s economic agenda.
As part of a nationwide bus tour, Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, welcomed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other congresswomen to the Capital Region, where hundreds of local residents chanted along with them, “When women succeed, America succeeds.”
That is the slogan of the House Democrats’ campaign calling on Republicans in Congress to approve several bills that would support equal pay, increase the minimum wage, provide paid leave for child care and sick days, and expand the child care tax credit.
“Washington, The Hill, Congress should not delay and they should not deny,” Tonko said. “This message is about getting business done, that is important, and we need to do it exponentially. We need to do it yesterday. Let’s get it done.”
Pelosi took the stage to booming applause from the crowd. “I don’t know where she gets her energy supply, it might come from dark chocolate,” Tonko joked.
“This is not a slogan — ‘When women succeed, America succeeds' — it is a statement of fact,” she said. “When respect for workers — men and women — exists, then businesses succeed in America.”
Pelosi said women should not have to choose between their jobs and their families. She asked the crowd, “What can we do to help you?” Women screamed back in response saying, “Thanks again!” and “Tell our governor!”
“We have a plan. It is right there. All we have to do is pass the bills,” Pelosi said. “It has been a non-partisan issue in the past. This Congress has gone so far to the right that they don’t even understand the value of a dollar today.”
Pelosi stressed that equal pay and raising the minimum wage would in turn create jobs, strengthen businesses and build the nation’s economy. “It’s very important that we win this issue,” she said.
Tonko said Albany was a great location for House Democrats to stop and tout their women’s agenda because it is home to the state Capitol — “where things happen.”
But the state’s women’s equality agenda has failed to pass in the state Legislature, where Republicans control the Senate with the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of breakaway Democrats.
“Well, certainly in the Assembly it passes, so the question is why we can’t get it through the Senate,” said Assemblyman Phil Steck, D-Colonie, who attended the event. “We don’t have a majority of Republicans in the Senate anymore, yet they are controlling the Senate and that is the problem. The Democrats were elected as Democrats and should vote as Democrats.”
The 10-point Women’s Equality Act includes measures designed to achieve pay equity, stop sexual harassment in the workplace, fight human trafficking and more.
In the crowd Sunday afternoon were a mix of men and women, local officials and several Republicans. Jim Fischer, who is challenging Tonko for the 20th Congressional District seat, parked his “Jim Fischer for Congress” van right down the street from the event on Loudon Road. Fischer said he supports women’s equality but questions who would bear the cost of the agenda — business or government — and said the focus should be on economic growth for men and women.
“All of their goals are laudable objectives, but the question comes down to who is going to pay for it and where the funding is going to come from,” he said. “I think what we have is a divide-and-conquer strategy. But we need to bring people together and talk about America winning as one country. When America wins, we all win.”
Pelosi said 17 votes stand in the way of passing the women’s economic agenda. She knocked Republicans in Congress for “not embracing family values” and “not rewarding hard work.”
She quoted Maya Angelou — who died last week at the age of 86 — saying: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”