Friday, July 31, 2015

Conyers Announces Reauthorization of Trade Adjustment Assistance for Michigan Workers


WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (Mich. 13) announced that petitions are now available under the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Reauthorization Act of 2015. 

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers,Jr.
“Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) is an integral part of getting thousands of workers back on their feet.  While too many Americans have lost jobs due to unfair trade practices, TAA provides an important first step to helping them recover,” said RepConyers, Jr..

This most recent reauthorization provides expanded eligibility to workers who have lost their jobs due to trade agreements—offering opportunity to many Americans who were left out of previous iterations of TAA, even if their job loss occurred more than a year ago.  This includes reconsideration for those who petitioned for assistance earlier this year but were rejected.

Since it was first authorized under the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, Trade Adjustment Assistance has been a lifeline for millions of hardworking Americans.  The legislation provides job training support, career counseling, income support for workers in training programs, and many others who have had their jobs affected by trade.  If trade is believed to have played a large role in layoffs, then an employer, a group of three or more workers, a union or worker representative, or an American Job Center representative can apply for TAA benefits on behalf of the impacted workers.

The recent reauthorization of TAA will provide workers with opportunities to obtain the skills, credentials, and support they need to obtain meaningful jobs for in-demand professions—offering assistance to an estimated 100,000 workers.These new expansions include up to 130 weeks of benefits that help workers pay their bills while they engage in two-year training programs.  It also includes eligibility for service sector workers, restoring provisions that President Obama had previously signed into law, but expired at the end of 2013.  Importantly, these benefits would be applicable retroactively, meaning that an estimated 17,500 service workers who were left without benefits in the last 17 months can apply for assistance.

For more information on eligibility, please visit www.doleta.gov/tradeact/.  To find the American Job Center nearest you visit www.servicelocator.org or call 1-877-US2-JOBS.  The deadline for applying for retroactive benefits and services endsSeptember 27, 2015.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

GOP Economics: Export American Jobs Rather Than American Products

By John Conyers, Jr.
Dean of the U.S. House
of Represesntatives
John Conyers, Jr.
Earlier this year, GOP standard-bearers Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal highlighting their support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, two massive trade deals with Asia and Europe. Congressman Ryan and Senator Cruz built their argument on a simple premise: Trade is good for exports. "These two agreements," wrote Ryan and Cruz, "would mean greater access to a billion customers for American manufacturers, farmers and ranchers."
So it's curious that -- given this supposed emphasis on exports -- the party of Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz is now fighting hard to destroy one of our main instruments for promoting the sale of American products to foreign markets: the Export-Import bank. This 81-year-old institution, which helps U.S. firms finance export operations, sustained 164,000 export-related American jobs last year and has created orsustained 1.3 million private sector jobs since 2009. In sharp contrast to Ryan and Cruz's two beloved trade agreements with Asia and Europe -- which are nearly certain to cost American jobs and undercut workers' livelihoods -- the Export-Import Bank operates at no cost to taxpayers.
On June 30th, just as Congress was quietly passing legislation to "Fast Track" the trade agreements over widespread Democratic objections, GOP leaders allowed the Export-Import Bank's authorization to expire. The bank is now temporarily out of commission, and Republicans show no interest in allowing a vote to revive it. 

When Franklin Roosevelt created the Export-Import bank during one of the darkest periods of the Great Depression, he was addressing the need for a coherent national economic strategy to promote job creation and livable wages. By providing loans at low interest rates to foreign entities to buy American goods, the federal government could, he reasoned, directly support domestic job creation and living standards in a cost-effective way. This vision has been borne out over the last eight decades. The bank had been an important part of our national economic strategy since foreign countries have often demanded financing as a precondition for importing American goods. Foreign competitors including China have created and expanded their own export-import banks to compete with the United States. Last year, the Export-Import bank actually returned $675 million to our federal Treasury, mostly through the interest and other fees it charges on its loans.

In rejecting federal export promotion tools, rejecting investments in highways and green energy, and rejecting essential funding for education and healthcare, the Republicans are left with just one element of an economic strategy: NAFTA-style trade agreements that force U.S. workers into direct competition with workers in countries like Vietnam, where the minimum wage runs below 60 cents per hour. As economists David Autor, David Dorn and Gordon Hanson demonstrated in their research on U.S.-China trade relations, increasing direct competition with large low-wage countries increases unemployment and reduces wages in the United States. Deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership simply empower multinational corporations with maximum influence to shape rules and standards at the expense of everyone else. In short, under the GOP economic strategy, there's just one sure thing we'll export to the rest of the world: American jobs. 

While quite a bit has changed in the 81 years since Franklin Roosevelt launched the Export-Import Bank, one fact remains the same: America needs a coherent national economic strategy focused on raising wages and living standards. We can implement such a strategy by investing in education, innovation, infrastructure, sensible export promotion, and a strong safety net--the genuine determinants of success in a competitive global economy. Having seen the consequences of the GOP's cut-and-run economics, Americans are ready for an affirmative agenda.
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Medicare at 50: A Cost-Effective and Compassionate Model


Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
WASHINGTON – Thursday, July 30, 2015,  U.S. Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13) will host a special forum, “Medicare at 50: A Cost-Effective and Compassionate Model.”  Wendell Potter, health insurance whistleblower and Senior Analyst at the Center for Public Integrity, will moderate the event.  The forum will highlight the successful Medicare program, the advancement and challenges of the Affordable Care Act, and the proposed “Medicare for All” healthcare system will be discussed among the featured panelists.

WHO: Rep. Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI)
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA)                     
Wendell Potter, moderator, Health Insurance Whistleblower, Center for Public Integrity
Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen
Michael Lighty, Director of Public Policy, National Nurses United
Robert Zarr, President, Physicians for a National Health Program
Andrea Miller, Executive Director, People Demanding Action 
      Don Berwick (via video), former administrator of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid    
      Services

WHAT:  Forum to discuss the successes of Medicare, review the major advances and challenges of the Affordable Care Act, and chart a path towards the proposed “Medicare for All” healthcare system.

WHEN:   Thursday, July 30, 2015 for 1:00p.m. to 2:45p.m.45 p.m.

WHERE:  2237 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C. (map)     

The event will be streamed live and can be viewed at https://youtu.be/cqopRQ1kT-s

Rep. John Conyers (MI-13) is the last remaining member of Congress to have voted for the passage of Medicare in 1965.  He is the lead sponsor of H.R. 676, “The Expanded & Improved Medicare for All Act,” which would create a single-payer healthcare system in the United States.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Progressive Caucus, Judiciary Dems to Hold Forum Hearing on Family Detention


Congressional Progressive Caucus
WASHINGTON, DC – The Congressional Progressive Caucus, along with Democratic Members of the House Judiciary Committee and support from the Congressional Tri-Caucuses, are holding a forum on Family Detention this Tuesday, July 28th at 2 PM in Rayburn 2226.

Witnesses include two formerly detained women, a whistleblower who worked at a family detention center, and experts who will speak to the psychological, developmental and legal implications of current family detention policies.

~~~~~For Planning Purposes~~~~~

WHAT
CPC/Judiciary Democrats’ Forum on Family Detention

WITNESSES
2 formerly detained women
Whistleblower who worked at a family detention center
Dr. Luis Zayas, Dean of the School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin
Barbara Hines, Former Clinical Professor at the University of Texas School of Law

MEMBERS
Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva
Rep. Keith Ellison
Rep. Zoe Lofgren
Rep. Judy Chu
Rep. Luis Gutierrez
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard
Rep. Grace Napolitano
Rep. Mark Takano
Other CPC, Judiciary and Tri-Caucus Members

WHEN
Tuesday, July 28th from 2-4 PM

WHERE
2226 Rayburn House Office Building

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Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. Opening Statement: Hearing on “Sanctuary Cities: a Threat to Public Safety”

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“I want to start by offering my sincere condolences to the Steinle family — who lost their daughter just three weeks ago — and to Sheriff Jones — who lost one of his deputies last Fall.  You have our deepest sympathies and your losses are on each of our minds.  Your presence here today is very much appreciated.
“I also want to say how unfortunate it is that we are having this important hearing only a few hours before we head to the Floor to vote on a bill that deals with this very issue.  The lack of Committee process and regular order breaks the commitment made to this body by the Majority Leader and will lead to a less informed debate on this critical topic.
“The decision to rush H.R. 3009 to the Floor without any Committee process is not the only evidence we have that the Majority has already made up its mind on this topic.  The pejorative title of this hearing demonstrates their belief that so-called “sanctuary cities” are a “threat to public safety.
“I disagree with that conclusion for several reasons.
“To begin with, numerous studies prove that communities which have adopted community trust ‘policies' are not less safe than other communities. 
“In fact, studies show that crime rates actually decrease in communities after they adopt such policies. 
“Further, these studies find that strong-arm policies – such as Secure Communities – fail to lower crime rates.  Instead, they can make communities less safe because residents become more fearful and therefore less likely to report criminal activity.
“Clearly, every law enforcement agency wants its community to be safe and every police officer’s goal is to implement the best policy to protect the people they are sworn to serve.
“To suggest that local law enforcement officials are pursuing policies that make their communities less safe is simply false and offensive. 
Second, I know that each of us opposes violent crime and wants to do what we can to prevent tragedies like the ones we will hear about today.
“Nevertheless, in our zeal to achieve this goal, we must consider solutions that actually are effective and not rule out options based on any predisposition.
“To that end, we should consider the recommendations of law enforcement itself.  The Major Cities Chiefs Association, for instance, opposes federal proposals that would “undermine the trust and cooperation between police officers and immigrant communities, which are essential elements of community-oriented policing.”
“The Association explains that such “measures would result in fear and distrust of local police, damaging our efforts to prevent crime and weakening our ability to apprehend those who prey upon the public.”
“Federal legislative proposals such as H.R. 3009 which is on the Floor today would do just that.  It would erode community trust and make it harder for local law enforcement to fight crime in their jurisdictions.
Finally, if we are looking for real solutions, we should be undertaking real comprehensive immigration reform
“An immigration reform bill – such as the measure that passed the Senate in 2013 or the bill that had 201 House cosponsors in the last Congress – would allow law-abiding immigrants to come out of the shadows and get right with the law.  As a result, it would enable Immigration and Customs Enforcement to focus its resources on deporting the worst elements. 
“That kind of solution would help ensure that our entire community, citizens and immigrants alike, are protected from harm.
“Accordingly, I look forward to hearing from our witnesses and I yield the balance of my time.”

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Let Americans know what's in their food

By John Conyers, Jr,
Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers,Jr.
One morning, just over a century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt threw his breakfast sausages out of a White House window.
That, at least, is how one humorist painted the picture of the President upon reading Upton Sinclair's now-classic novel "The Jungle," set amidst the severe and unsanitary conditions of Chicago's turn-of-the-century slaughterhouses. Since that breakfast episode, many laws -- starting with Roosevelt's Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 -- have been passed to strengthen national health and sanitation standards. Yet from Roosevelt's time to today, a simple fact remains the same:
Americans want to know what's in their food.
This week, the House of Representatives is set to vote on a bill that would take unprecedented steps to deny us all the right to know basic information about what we eat.the Food and Drug Administration from introducing mandatory labeling of Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) foods and ban states from doing the same -- even if voters demand such labeling through a ballot measure. The bill would also block many state and local efforts to protect farmers and the public from concerns including seed and pesticide drift and would forbid states from making it illegal for companies to label GMO products as "natural," as Connecticut has done.
The bill is a serious attack on transparency and presents a dubious one-size-fits-all approach to federal policy making. Most importantly, it presents a potentially serious threat to our long-term health.
    In a landmark report this year, the World Health Organization revealed a weed-killer called glyphosate to be a probable cause of cancer. The chemical, also known as Roundup, is considered safer than some other herbicides, but it's being used increasingly often in growing quantities as farmers around the world attempt to drown out new weeds that have become resistant to the chemical's effects. This overzealous use of herbicides is made possible by a recent innovation: corn, soy, and other crops that have been genetically engineered to withstand heavy use of the chemicals. The issue, therefore, isn't just GMOs on their own -- it's the increasing use of herbicides that GMOs enable.
    This is why voters in Vermont passed a ballot initiative to require GMO labeling. It's why 64 countries around the world require GMO labels. It's why, according to recent polling, more than 90% of Americans support mandatory labeling for these crops.
    The proposal before Congress this week isn't simply about denying Americans the right to know what's in their food. As the text of the bill stands right now, HR 1599 could potentially block state and local efforts to regulate GMO crops and related chemicals to protect farm workers and rural residents from economic and environmental damages. This is particularly troubling when you consider that there are hundreds of elementary schools within 200 feet of a corn or soybean field, according to the Environmental Working Group.
    This should not be a partisan issue -- both parties purport to stand for transparency, and both parties should oppose a federal power-grab to prevent states and localities from making their own decisions regarding the protection of lives and property.
    So why has the bill been introduced?
    Proponents of HR 1599 claim it's essential to stop food labeling in order to prevent a spike in food prices. Yet companies change food labels frequently to highlight innovations, and countries with mandatory labeling have not encountered food price spikes attributable to anti-GMO backlash.
    While proponents claim that their proposal will still allow voluntary GMO labeling, the bill, as it stands now, outlaws any non-GMO claim unless approved through a new certification process to be created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Given that it took the department more than a decade to establish similar certifications for organic foods, this would effectively stop farmers and food companies from advertising the purity of their own food. Meanwhile, many of the corporate lobbyists who champion this proposal are the folks who are fighting to reject the claims of leading scientists that the liberal use of glyphosate and other chemicals could harm human health.
    Upton Sinclair, the author who appears to have awakened Teddy Roosevelt's interest in food safety, said it best: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."
    The fact that Congress is even considering a proposal to deny Americans basic information about their food speaks to overwhelming power of these corporate lobbyists over the public interest.
    Knowing this, our 26th president would probably be unable to finish his breakfast.
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    Conyers and Jackson Lee Unveil Package of Legislation to Reform Policing Practices and Youth Incarceration


    Washington, D.C. – Today, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and House Judiciary Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) held a press conference to unveil H.R. 2875, the Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act of 2015 and a package of three bills to reform youth incarceration. 

    The Members were joined by Gregory Thomas, President of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE); Julie Stewart, President of the Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM); Hilary Sheltonwith the National Association for the Advancement of Colors People (NAACP), Dr. Michael Lomax, President and CEO of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF); Rev. Aundreia Alexander of the National Council of Churches; and Venidaand Raheem Browder, family of Kalief Browder.

    “Over the last two years, there has been an increase in the number of our citizens that recognize faults in our nation’s criminal justice system and demand change.  The introduction of the Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act (LETIA) responds to diminishment of public confidence in law enforcement, particularly at the state and local level,” said Conyers.  “It is clear that improved national standards are necessary to address the ever-growing catalogue of incidents such as the case of Sandra Bland in Waller County, Texas where a routine traffic stop led to an arrest and a death-in-custody 72 hours later.  It is critical that we adopt smarter approaches to dealing with those involved with the criminal justice system.”

    “It is imperative that we in Congress act swiftly and decisively to tackle the issues plaguing our criminal justice system and causing great rifts between communities and law enforcement.  By focusing on providing key resources and developing comprehensive legislative proposals that will improve policing strategies and rebuild trust between law enforcement and the communities that they serve, we can restore faith in the American criminal justice system,” said Jackson Lee.


    ·         Help improve standards for law enforcement accreditation and encourage law enforcement agencies to obtain accreditation.
    ·         Provide grants to state and local government and private organizations to develop pilot programs to implement best practices focused on law enforcement recruitment, training, hiring, management, and oversight of officers.
    ·         Authorize funding assistance to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and Community Relations Service.
    ·         Create a task force within the Justice Department to coordinate investigations and cases involving instances of law enforcement misconduct that violates federal law.
    ·         Establish better data collection concerning traffic stops, pedestrian stops and detentions, and use of deadly force by andagainst law enforcement officers.

    At the press conference, Rep. Jackson Lee introduced three bills that focus on sentencing and incarceration in the federal system, expungement and sealing of federal convictions, and humane confinement of youth.  The legislation package is:

    H.R. 3158, the Reforming Alternatives to Incarceration and Sentencing to Establish A Better Path for Youth Act of 2015 (RAISE Act):

    ·         Expands the mandatory minimum safety valve for nonviolent incarcerated youth
    ·         Increases the length of time an incarcerated youth can serve home confinement and expands the use of home confinement generally
    ·         Ends mandatory life imprisonment for incarcerated youth and creates a review mechanism after 20 years for incarcerated youth serving decades long sentences to be transferred to supervised release
    ·         Directs the Bureau of Prisons to provide specialized housing and programs for incarcerated youth
    ·         Establishes pilot programs to give incarcerated youth the opportunity to receive mentorship and to obtain skills through government and community service
    ·         Establishes pilot diversion programs for incarcerated youth who are high-risk, victims, or caretakers
    ·         Limits the length of time an individual can be incarcerated for technical probation violations

    H.R. 3156, The Fair Chance for Youth Act of 2015:

    ·         Allows formerly incarcerated youth to petition  and seek for expungement of federal misdemeanor and nonviolent drug offense convictions and sealing of federal nonviolent convictions

    H.R. 3155, The Effective and Humane Treatment of Youth Act of 2015 or Kalief’s Law:

    ·         Named in recognition of Kalief Browder, a young man who committed suicide after years of inhumane treatment in the Riker’s Correctional Facility, including two years of solitary confinement, would reauthorizes the Juvenile Accountability Block Grant program.
    ·         Requires states receiving juvenile grant funding to implement policies and procedures to provide a right to speedy trial and timely bail consideration, and to ban youth solitary confinement
    ·         Bans the use of solitary confinement for youth in federal facilities and allows the use of temporary separation in limited exigent circumstances that meet strict requirements
    ·         Requires federal law enforcement to record all custodial interrogation of youth in federal custody and establishes preservation requirements and admissibility rules for such recordings
    ·         Authorizes federal grant funds to support the recording of custodial interrogations by states
    ·         Bans the shackling and restraint of youth during federal court appearances unless there are legitimate security concerns justifying the use of restraints
    ·         Requires states receiving federal grant funding to implement policies and training programs specific to police-youth interactions.


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