U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi kicked off the first leg of a nationwide tour that included a stop Sunday in Albany.
"When Women Succeed, America Succeeds" - that is the theme - the economic agenda intending to strengthen working families - in the words of its proponents - "to unleash the power of women across the country" through support of legislative proposals to extend equal pay, a minimum wage increase, paid family and medical leave and other benefits to working women.
The bus tour is out to underscore the challenges facing women and families and House Democrats’ economic agenda to address those challenges. Pelosi and House Democrats aboard say they'll highlight the need for policies that work for women, including equal pay for equal work, raising the minimum wage, paid sick leave, and quality, affordable child care.
Pelosi delivered an emotionally-charged speech that resonated among members of the crowd: she spoke of a female bus driver who told Pelosi she routinely saw mothers cry because they couldn't jeopardize their jobs to keep a sick child home. "She has no paid sick days, so she can't take one of those. And she cannot afford child care. So what does she do? Doesn't make enough money to afford child care. It isn't affordable in the first place. No paid leave. Can't skip a say of work. Can't afford it and might lose her job. She puts a sick child on the bus in tears. And that's not rare."
Statistics provided by AFL-CIO show more than four in 10 private-sector workers and 80% of low-wage workers do not have paid sick days. This means people, especially women who are more likely to work in low-wage jobs, constantly have to choose between their health and a paycheck. "Here we are, the greatest country that ever existed in the history of the world, living in a world where many countries, except us, except for a very few countries, do not have paid sick days. We have to change that."
Monday morning the bus rolled into Massachusetts with a stop at Middlesex Community College with U.S. Reps. Niki Tsongas and John Tierney, who is facing a tough re-election battle this year.
Next stop: Roxbury Technology in Boston's Hyde Park neighborhood shortly after noon with other members of the bay state's all-Democratic congressional delegation including Reps. Katherine Clark, Mike Capuano and Joe Kennedy.
Again, Speaker Pelosi: "Equal pay for equal work is inevitable. To some it may be inconceivable. We're gonna shorten the distance between the inconceivable and the inevitable, and it will be when we have seventeen more votes to pass the bill in Congress."
The tour crystallizes a very vocal, active push to effect long yearned-for changes to empower women and lift thousands of them from the dregs of poverty by raising the minimum wage.