The issue of labor is important to our district and my work in Congress.
Throughout my career in Congress and in the State Senate, I have always been a strong, stalwart proponent of the labor movement and working people. In 2008 and 2009, I received 100% ratings from the AFL-CIO and SEIU. I believe that our working men and women deserve strong support from their elected officials, and I have worked hard in my time as an elected official to represent their interests in government. That is why I voted against the Colombia, Panama and South Korea trade agreements in August 2011 -- because the proposed trade deals would hinder potential job growth in America.
Tennessee has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, especially among women and minorities. While I believe the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has helped to save many jobs that otherwise would have been lost because of the economic downturn, we can and should do more to create employment opportunities.
I am a founding member of the bipartisan Jobs NOW! Congressional Caucus. I joined for one reason, to advocate for jobs, jobs and more jobs. I know that when someone has a job, they have financial peace of mind, they walk a little taller, and they take pride in the fact they can provide for their family.
I am proud to be the sponsor of the Equal Employment For All Act (H.R.321), which would prohibit a current or prospective employer from using a consumer report or an investigative consumer report, or from causing one to be procured, for either employment purposes or for making an adverse action, if the report contains information that bears upon the consumer's creditworthiness, credit standing, or credit capacity.
Soon I will reintroduce the Jobs for Urban Sustainability in America Act (H.R. 4740 in the 111th Congress), which would allocate $10 billion in grants to cities with double digit unemployment rates for nine consecutive months to provide job training, public works, and economic development programs. The funding will be administered by the U.S. Secretary of Labor and U.S Secretary of Commerce from funds made available through TARP under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008.
This legislation is designed to help Americans struggling to find work by investing newly returned TARP dollars into public works and job training programs for unemployed workers. The public needs immediate assistance and Congress must do everything possible to help those who are suffering in this economy. This bill would support job training and economic development programs that will help Americans in our urban core back to their feet at a time when the unemployment rate is at its worst.
Below, you will find key legislation that I am proud to cosponsor in the 112th Congress.
The Urban Jobs Act of 2011 (H.R.683) would authorize the Secretary of Labor to make grants to the National Urban League to operate, through local affiliates, an Urban Jobs Program to provide job training, education, and support services and activities for eligible young adults to prepare them for entry into the workforce.
The Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act (H.R. 639) would address the manipulation of currency by certain foreign countries, which unfairly hurts our companies. The bill would allow the President to impose import duties to offset undervalued currency.
The Fair Employment Act (H.R.1113) would amend title VII (Equal Employment Opportunities) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add unemployment status to the categories of prohibited discrimination. It also would define "unemployment status" as being unemployed, having actively looked for employment during the then most recent four-week period, and currently being available for employment.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (H.R.1397) would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity by employers, employment agencies, labor organizations, or joint labor-management committees.
The Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R.1319) would amend the portion of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) known as the Equal Pay Act to revise remedies for, enforcement of, and exceptions to prohibitions against sex discrimination in the payment of wages.
The Job Opportunity Between Our Shores (JOBS) Act (H.R.1716) would amend the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 to establish a pilot program to facilitate education and training programs in the field of advanced manufacturing.
The Healthy Families Act (H.R. 2460) would require employers who employ at least 15 workers to offer their employees sick leave to (1) meet their own medical needs; (2) care for the medical needs of certain family members; or (3) seek medical attention, assist a related person, take legal action, or engage in other specified activities relating to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
H.Res.198 would recognize the coordinated struggle of workers during the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers strike to voice their grievances and reach a collective agreement for rights in the workplace. This resolution would honor the perseverance of the 1,300 members of Local 1733 in urging social and economic equality in the workplace and recognize the contributions of all those unnamed who participated in the fight for justice during the strike.
Key Legislation in the 111th Congress (2009/2010)
- The “Employee Free Choice Act” (H.R. 1409) would give workers the choice to form a union if a majority of workers sign an authorization card. If employees would prefer to use the conventional secret ballot election method, they may still do so. The Employee Free Choice Act would also strengthen penalties against employers who coerce or intimidate employees. In addition, it would establish mediation and binding arbitration when the employer and employees cannot agree on a first contract.
- On July 29, 2009, President Obama signed into law the “Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act” (H.R. 11), which overturned a recent Supreme Court decision restricting the ability of a woman who was paid less than her male co-workers to sue for employment discrimination. The new law clarifies that an unlawful employment practice occurs when: (1) a discriminatory compensation decision is made or other practice is adopted; (2) an individual becomes subject to the decision or practice; or (3) an individual is affected by application of the decision or practice, including each time compensation is made.
- The Correction of Long-Standing Errors in Agencies’ Unsustainable Procurements Act of 2009 (CLEAN-UP) Act (H.R. 2736) would reverse the recent trend toward contracting out federal jobs that could and should be done by federal employees. The bill would require federal agencies to ensure that inherently governmental functions are performed by federal employees, other functions are performed by the more efficient form of personnel, whether federal employees, contractors, or military personnel, and that consideration is given to using federal employees to perform new functions on a regular basis.
- The Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment (TRADE) Act of 2009 (H.R. 3012) would require a review of existing trade agreements, including NAFTA and the WTO, set forth that should be contained in future trade agreements, and provide for the renegotiation of existing trade agreements. The bill would include strong protections for labor in all future trade agreements and would revisit current trade pacts to include new labor protections.
Key Legislation in the 110th Congress (2007/2008)
- H.R. 2 – The Fair Minimum Wage Act raised the minimum wage, first to $5.85 an hour within 60 days after enactment, then to $6.55 an hour one year after those 60 days, and finally to $7.25 an hour two years after those 60 days.
- H.R. 1125 – The Freedom to Fly Act raises the mandatory retirement age for commercial airline pilots to age 65.
- H.R. 1593 – The Second Chance Act authorizes grants for prisoner re-entry programs. Prisoner re-entry programs help ex-offenders obtain employment, among other things, after they are released from prison.
- H.R. 2744 – The Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act amends the Family and Medical Leave Act for the purpose of including airline flight crews under the FMLA’s protection.
- H.R. 3652 – The Protecting Employees and Retirees in Business Bankruptcies Act of 2007 amends the federal bankruptcy law so that it is more difficult for businesses to reject collective bargaining agreements, pension obligations, and employee benefits after entering bankruptcy.
- I secured $195,000 for the City of Memphis’ Second Chance prisoner re-entry program, which helps ex-offenders with their efforts to gain employment.