Friday, August 30, 2013

Conyers: To Truly Celebrate Labor Day We Must Emphasize Full Employment and a $15 Minimum Wage

Rep. Conyers to March in Solidarity Alongside UAW and AFSCME on Labor Day

(DETROIT) – This weekend, Detroit will celebrate Labor Day with two marches, one by the United Auto Workers (UAW) and another by the Detroit Chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). These marches down Michigan Avenue will honor the hard work and dedication of workers across the country. These marches also come on the heels of employees  in the fast food and restaurant service industry who went on  strike yesterday in more than 60 metropolitan areas, calling for fair wages and the fundamental right to organize. Concurrently, Ford Motor Company announced yesterday the relocation of a Ford Fusion production plant to Flat Rock, Michigan that will create 1,400 well-paying jobs for the Detroit metropolitan area. Reflecting on these events in the time leading up to Labor Day, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
"As we prepare for the Labor Day weekend marches and festivities, I applaud the resilience and organization of the labor movement. Over the past week alone, we have witnessed fast food workers around the Nation going on strike for decent wages, and the UAW garnering hard-earned jobs for the Detroit community. It is my sincere hope that these developments indicate a better future ahead for organized labor that will put more people to work,” said Conyers.

“In the aftermath of the Great Recession, millions of Americans continue to struggle through unemployment or underemployment. As we march, it is critical that we continue to advocate for a full employment economy. This can be best accomplished by continuing to grow support for H.R. 1000, the ‘Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Training Act.’ Through two public trust funds, this legislation is designed to both rehire individuals who seek to work and to provide training for the many new types of jobs being created. Now more than ever this country needs public service workers, in fields ranging from highway improvement, to waterways infrastructure, and at schools in all grade levels.

“As President Obama declared in his speech at the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, ‘The arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, but it doesn’t bend on its own.’ In celebrating the hard-fought gains by organized labor this weekend, I call for a renewed commitment not only to the rights of workers already employed, but for all who seek to join them. I look forward to participating in the weekend’s festivities, and to continuing the long march towards economic justice.”

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Conyers Announces Forum on Legal Implications of Detroit’s Bankruptcy Filing; Forum To Be Moderated by Professor Michael Eric Dyson

(DETROIT) – In response to the myriad issues presented by the Detroit bankruptcy filing, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) announced he will be holding a forum on Friday, September 6, to discuss legal and other implications of Detroit’s bankruptcy filing. The forum, expected to be broadcast live by C-SPAN, which will be held at the Fellowship Church in Detroit beginning at 6 pm, will be moderated by acclaimed scholar and commentator Michael Eric Dyson and  include key public officials, legal experts, clergy and others.

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
In announcing the forum, Rep. Conyers stated:  “Given the unprecedented nature of Detroit’s bankruptcy filing, it is imperative that we have a public forum to discuss its impact on Detroit and the city’s future.  The forum will examine the full range of issues facing Detroit as a result of the bankruptcy filing, including the impact on pensions, the state of possible conflicts of interests and other issues raised by an unelected official making the filing, such as whether the filing was made in good faith. In addition, the forum will discuss the ramifications of the filing on taxpayers, workers, retirees and other stakeholders in DetroitMichigan, and around the nation.”

Further information about the event is detailed below:

Detroit Bankruptcy Forum 
Ø      Host – Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) – Ranking Member, House Judiciary Committee

Ø      Moderator – Michael Eric Dyson – Professor, Georgetown University

Ø      Harvey Hollins – Director of the Office of Urban and Metropolitan Initiatives on behalf of Governor Snyder
Ø      Robert Ficano – Wayne County Executive
Ø      State Senator Coleman Young
Ø      State Senator Bert Johnson
Ø      Detroit Council Member JoAnn Watson
Ø      Reverend Wendell Anthony – President, NAACP, Detroit Chapter
Ø      Marcia L. Dyson – Political Strategist, Social Activist and Writer
Ø      Al Garrett – President, AFSCME, Detroit Chapter
Ø      Mark Diaz – President, Detroit Police Officers Association
Ø      Rose Roots – President, AFSCME Detroit Retiree Subchapter 98
Ø      James Spiotto – Partner and head of the Special Litigation, Bankruptcy and Workout Group, Chapman & Cutler LLP
Ø      Krystal Crittendon – Former corporation counsel for the City of Detroit
Ø      Mike Steinberg – Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union ofMichigan
Ø      Shar Habibi – Research and Policy Director, In the Public Interest

Friday, September 6th, 6:00 p.m.
Fellowship Church
7707 West Outer Drive
DetroitMI 48235

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Conyers Lauds President Obama’s Speech at the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

(WASHINGTON) – Fifty years ago in 1963, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King inspired a nation by declaring a vision of an America where all men were created equal and entitled to the promises of the Constitution.  Yesterday, thousands gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington that marked the turning of the tide in the civil rights movement. Following the events, Congressman Conyers gave the following reflections:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“There are so many memories I have carried throughout these last 50 years since the March in 1963.  I will never forget Dr. Kings powerful voice on that day, the very voice that challenged the conscience of our Nation and inspired movement for great changes in our nation’s values and politics.  Today, the first black President of the United States, Barack Obama, voiced some of the similar tensions and struggles that we faced then and are still facing today,” said Conyers.

"In the 50 years since Dr. King articulated the dream of that generation, the United States has seen significant progress toward the ideal of racial equality. However, Dr. King believed that if one of us was not free, then none of us were free.  As we face the continuing struggles for equality for ever more diverse groups in our nation, the words Dr. King still provide inspiration and guidance.  

"The President sounded the call for action on the road to greater equality. I believe that we must not turn back the clock on Dr. Kings grand vision of equality, reconciliation, acceptance and instead, use this anniversary as a reminder of what is at stake for our nation. Thankfully, we do not have to wait another 50 years to fulfill this dream.  Congress can act to create jobs, reform our immigration system, protect the right to health care for all, and ensure that the damage done to voting rights by the Supreme Court is undone.  

"I applaud President Obama, the embodiment of this dream, and the King family for their commitment to lead our Nation to being a more perfect union."

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fulfilling Martin Luther King’s dream

By John Conyers, Jr.

In the 50 years since the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. articulated the dream of a generation, the United States has seen significant progress toward the ideal of racial equality. But the other half of King’s vision — economic equity for all Americans — remains sadly unfulfilled.

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
America’s wealth and income gaps have grown to shocking proportions, in no small part due to federal tax and spending policies that have betrayed the great civil rights leader’s ardent hopes for a better society. To many, the quest for economic equality represents the last great frontier in civil rights.

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, political and social progress is clear. Legally mandated racial segregation in the American South has been dismantled. African-Americans have come to occupy positions of power and influence, from the boardroom to the statehouse to the White House. When I was first sworn into the House of Representatives in 1965, I joined just five other African-American members; today, there are 43.

Yet, there is need for continued vigilance. Voter suppression efforts plague modern elections. And Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which gives the federal government power to approve changes to the voting laws of certain states with a history of discrimination, has fallen victim to legal challenge.

But the most obvious failure to achieve equality is in the economic realm. With a few exceptions, U.S. income inequality has consistently worsened since reaching a low in 1968, according to the Congressional Budget Office and the U.S. Census Bureau. Over that same period, the average African-American household continued to earn about 60 percent of the average white household. The percentage of Americans living in poverty — after dropping to 11 percent in the years immediately following Dr. King’s 1963 speech — was back to 15 percent in 2011.

Wealth disparities are even more glaring. In 2010, the median white household had eight times the assets of the median black household, according to the Urban Institute. These huge discrepancies threaten our democratic institutions because concentrated wealth wields disproportionate political influence.

Although several factors have contributed to these troubling financial disparities, researchers have determined that roughly one-third of this escalating income inequality can be attributed to our skewed tax system and cuts to public services and benefits.
An unfair budget policy contributes to economic inequality in different ways. First, lower tax rates for the wealthy and numerous tax loopholes for large corporations keep money in the pockets of those who need it least. Then, the resulting decline in tax revenue causes Washington to slash investments in everything from job training to education to mass transit — the very resources American families need to pull through tough times and get ahead over the long-term.

To help close these economic gaps, we need reformed tax and spending policies that require everyone to pay a fair share. Ending tax loopholes that encourage individuals and large corporations to hide profits and ship jobs overseas could easily raise $600 billion over the next decade to invest in American communities. Limiting the wealthiest families to the top tax deduction available to middle-class taxpayers (28 percent) could raise an additional $500 billion.
With millions unemployed or underemployed, rather than losing 900,000 more jobs with another round of cuts mandated by the cruel budget “sequester,” we could use this new revenue to invest in America’s future through a national jobs program. My proposal, the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Training Act (H.R. 1000), would put Americans back to work rebuilding our infrastructure and rehabilitating our communities.

Dr. King understood that civil rights included economic rights and that we can never truly form a more perfect union until income, wealth and opportunity are made more equal. On this 50th anniversary of his greatest speech, we come once more to rededicate ourselves to that dream.

Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), dean of the Congressional Black Caucus, is serving his 25th term in Congress. He is the only member of Congress ever endorsed by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Conyers, Nadler, and Scott Call for Immediate Congressional Action to Curb Privacy Abuses

(WASHINGTON) – Today, further details about the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance program were made public in press accounts. Specifically, it was reported that internal NSA’s reports show that the agency repeatedly ran afoul of privacy rules. Following these public revelations, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, and Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations issued the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“We are gravely concerned with recent revelations of the government’s misuse of its surveillance authorities. Earlier this week, we learned of an internal review that shows the NSA routinely oversteps its own privacy rules. Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the government has the capability to reach nearly three-quarters of all internet traffic in the United States.  Just moments ago, the government declassified court documents that show the NSA collected Americans’ electronic communication with no connection to terrorism—and did not learn of the problem for nearly three years.  These revelations, and others over the past weeks, demand that we act immediately. 
“Although we have repeatedly been assured that the government’s surveillance programs are subject to robust internal and external oversight, the burden remains on the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to ensure that government acts in a manner that is consistent with our civil liberties.  The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on these programs in July, and Chairman Goodlatte has announced his intention to hold a classified hearing on these programs in September.  These hearings are good first step in our work to curb these abuses with all deliberate speed.

“Meaningful Congressional oversight of these matters also depends on reporting by the executive branch. We must take appropriate legislative action to ensure that the government may not take advantage of existing authorities.  H.R. 2399, the ‘LIBERT-E Act,’ will restrict the use of the USA PATRIOT Act’s Section 215 authority and to provide Members of Congress greater information about the FISA Court’s decisions and opinions. Given recent disclosures, we also believe it is imperative that we enact legislation to declassify certain reports, introduce a public advocate to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and change the manner in which FISC judges are selected.”

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Conyers Announces Henry Ford Health System Awarded $441k for Nursing Research

(DETROIT) – This week the Department of Health & Human Services, National Institute of Nursing Research office awarded a new grant, totaling $441,471, to Henry Ford Health Systems for nursing research. The National Institute of Nursing Research supports and conducts basic research and clinical training on health and illness across the lifespan to build the scientific foundation for clinical practice, prevent disease and disability, manage and eliminate symptoms caused by illness, and improve palliative and end-of-life care. The grant awarded to Henry Ford Health Systems is designed to promote scientific exploration that will lead to better health outcomes and health services, specifically studying the behavioral treatment of menopausal insomnia; and sleep, depression, and daytime outcomes. Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued the following statement announcing this grant:
U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.

“Nursing research has a tremendous influence on current and future professional nursing practice, and I am pleased to announce that Henry Ford Health Systems has received such a grant for $441,471,” said Conyers.

“With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, there is an ever growing need for more nurses. This sort of research funding will help the Detroit-Metro nurses implement new changes in the lifelong care of individuals and in developing treatments that provide the best care possible to the citizens of Southeast Michigan.”

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Conyers Hails Mayor Bing’s Order to Remove “Pet Coke” from Detroit River

(DETROIT) – Yesterday evening, Detroit Mayor David Bing ordered that the petroleum coke piles stored alongside the Detroit River be removed by Tuesday, August 27. After this announcement, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
"I am heartened that Mayor Bing has ordered the removal of petroleum coke, better known as ‘pet coke,’ from the Detroit riverfront.  This order is critical to protecting the quality of Detroit’s air and water from this public nuisance.  However, until a final resolution is achieved, I will continue to monitor the situation and advocate for the elimination of these polluting piles,” said Conyers.

“Over the past few months, it is become clear that an order by Mayor Bing might be necessary to properly address this problem, due to the lack of engagement or concern on behalf of the polluting parties in this case.  My engagement with this issue began in early Spring, shortly after these piles appeared.  On March 12, 2013, Congressman Peters and I wrote a letter to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) asking for their review of the problem.  We were unsatisfied with their response, and so we wrote them again on May 21, 2013 asking for assurances regarding the adequacy of protections for Detroit’s residents, air, and water.  While MDEQ responded with more specific reasons to believe there was not a problem, subsequent facts made clear that wasn’t the case - the most glaring example being the massive pet coke dust cloud which was filmed forming over Detroit.  Throughout this months-long process, the parties involved in storing and shipping this potentially dangerous material acted without consideration or concern for the community.

“Mayor Bing’s order to withdraw the pet coke, seems necessary in light of the disrespect and disregard Detroiters have been shown by those who control the ‘pet coke’ piles.  I am also glad to see that he ordered the piles to be properly stored and covered with a tarp, which is what I and several local officials have been supporting from the beginning.  I would like to thank Mayor Bing for taking this step to protect our home.  I would also like to thank those who have worked with me on this issue, Representative Peters, other members of the Michigan delegation, local officials, state representatives, and state, national, and Canadian advocates for clean air and water who have been critical to addressing this issue. Because of their work, all of us who make Detroit our home can breathe a little easier.”

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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Conyers, Nadler, and Scott Write AG Holder on DEA Surveillance Allegations

(WASHINGTON) – Today, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, and Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder concerning reports that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) uses information collected by the National Security Agency (NSA) in criminal investigations entirely unrelated to terrorism and the collection of foreign intelligence.

A copy of the letter is provided below:

August 9, 2013

The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530

Dear Attorney General Holder:

As you know, we have a number of concerns about the collection and use of information under the extraordinary authority granted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the FISA Amendments Act, and the USA PATRIOT Act.  Among those concerns is that the government may use this information for purposes wholly unrelated to counterterrorism or the collection of foreign intelligence.  We are particularly alarmed by recent reports about what appears to be the routine use of foreign intelligence information in criminal trials.

On August 5, 2013, Reuters reported that the Special Operations Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration is “funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants, and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.”[1] 

The Special Operations Division includes representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency.  The Reuters report suggests that the SOD obtains surveillance information from the NSA, then distributes that information to other DEA units for use in criminal cases.[2]

The report alleges further that federal agents are trained in “parallel construction” techniques—i.e., fabricating an investigative trail to make it appear as if the agency obtained the information through routine criminal investigations techniques, rather than through the NSA’s national security apparatus.[3]

If this report is accurate, then it describes an unacceptable breakdown in the barrier between foreign intelligence surveillance and criminal process.

The types of information described in the Reuters report are consistent with what the public now knows about the acquisition of foreign intelligence information under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.[4]  Over the past several weeks, the government has assured both Congress and the general public that this authority cannot be used to target United States citizens.[5]  If the government has institutionalized the sharing of foreign intelligence information across agencies to aid in the routine criminal prosecution of U.S. persons, then we will be forced to take a closer look at those assurances.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act provides for the possibility that information acquired under Section 702 may be used in a criminal prosecution in certain circumstances.  The statute expressly requires that, if the government intends to use such information in court, then it must provide advance notice of intent to do so, both to the court and to the criminal defendant.[6]  The U.S. Supreme Court recently and explicitly affirmed this rule.[7]  The idea that federal agents devise “parallel” storylines to avoid this disclosure is deeply troubling.  It also raises  constitutional questions. As a matter of due process, a criminal defendant has a right to know how the government has obtained the evidence used against him, and the government has an obligation to disclose those sources.[8]

We do not believe that the practices described in this report are consistent with the requirements of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or with the manner in which this Administration has recently described its surveillance programs.  Accordingly, please respond to the following questions by August 26, 2013:

1.       Which components of the U.S. Department of Justice have access to information collected by the government under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act?

2.       Does the Drug Enforcement Administration, or any other component of the Department of Justice, use or give to any other federal, state, or local agency foreign intelligence surveillance information collected under FISA for the purpose of criminal investigation or criminal prosecution?  If so, with what frequency?  Under which authorities is such information collected?

3.       Does the Drug Enforcement Administration, or any other component of the Department of Justice, use “parallel construction” or any other similar technique to obscure the source of evidence that may be used in a criminal investigation?

4.       Has any component of the Department of Justice ever used or given to any other federal, state, or local agency for their use, foreign intelligence surveillance information in a judicial or administrative proceeding without providing the notices required by law?

5.       Under the doctrine announced by the U.S. Supreme Court in Brady v. Maryland, an accused has a right to examine evidence that may be favorable to the defense.  Under Brady, if the government has deliberately obscured the source of evidence used in a criminal trial—though “parallel construction” or any other technique—what remedies are available to the defendant?

6.       Has the Department of Justice launched its own investigation of this revelation?  If so, when can the House Judiciary Committee expect to receive your preliminary findings?

We appreciate the willingness of the Department to provide information about these programs in a classified setting, but we ask that you provide a written, unclassified response to this inquiry.  The public deserves a full explanation of the use of these surveillance programs. 

Thank you for your prompt and personal attention to this matter.


John Conyers, Jr.
Ranking Member

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Congressman John Conyers talks about the early beginnings of the Congressional Black Caucus and how education is key.

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

CBC Chair Marcia Fudge’s Statement on Detroit Filing Bankruptcy

WASHINGTON, DC (Link) - Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chair Marcia L. Fudge (OH-11) released the following statement:

“The CBC stands with the citizens, workers, and retirees of the City of Detroit as the city faces an unprecedented fiscal situation and a possible chapter 9 bankruptcy.” 

“The problems in Detroit have not been caused by its residents, municipal workers and retirees. The current crisis Detroit faces is due to much larger economic forces, including the deindustrialization of our cities, and specifically, the decline of the Detroit-based auto industry; a deliberate policy of the state of Michigan to suburbanize the Detroit metro area; a 50% reduction in longstanding state-shared revenues to its cities and towns since 2002; and pervasive poverty. Detroit’s per capita income is 60% less than the per capita income of the state as a whole.

“As members of Congress representing districts throughout the country, we find it alarming that a major city like Detroit is even filing for bankruptcy. At a minimum this should be a reason to reevaluate current economic policy and to end the fiscal austerity that has made matters worse for Detroit and that harms all Americans, particularly those in our inner cities. Random budget cuts weaken our cities and kill jobs. We should put an end to austerity policies now, hit the reset button and begin reinvesting in America by fixing our crumbling infrastructure, and by funding education, public safety and other vital local services. 

“We also think it is time to begin developing a real urban economic policy, one that creates jobs and helps foster an economy that works for all the citizens of this nation, not just the wealthy few. The difficulties facing Detroit and other American cities are symptoms of a larger problem. Too many inner city residents lack jobs and economic opportunities. 

“Some want to unfairly make city workers and their pensions the scapegoats, but they are not the problem. Since 2012, the pensions of non-uniformed workers in Detroit have been reduced by 40% and the average pension is now just $19,000 per year. The city’s employees have also taken a 10 percent pay cut during the last fiscal year. These public workers have made real sacrifices, and now is the time for others to do their part. Bankruptcy should not become the excuse to break contracts, cut pensions and vilify individuals who make our cities safe and livable.

“The CBC strongly condemns the divisive political posturing exhibited by some Members of Congress who have offered proposals aimed at blocking any type of federal assistance for Detroit.  These same members have no qualms with requesting federal assistance when fertilizer plant explosions, hurricanes, record snowfall, or drought have negatively affected their communities.  And yet, they give a cold shoulder to one of America’s great cities in its moment of greatest need.

“The CBC is pleased that President Obama and Gene Sperling, Director of the National Economic Council, have stepped forward to offer help with regard to  federal grants and other assistance to Detroit.  We stand ready to work with the Obama Administration, Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13), and our colleagues in Congress to devise an immediate infusion of federal assistance for Detroit that creates new economic opportunities, mitigates the effects of fiscal austerity, maintains critical city services, prevents the privatization of public assets, and preserves the livelihood and retirement security of the city’s residents.” 

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