BEVERLY — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke to a standing-room-only crowd of mostly women at the Cummings Center yesterday, appearing with Democratic Congressman John Tierney to outline an economic agenda to help women and families.
Pelosi focused on equal pay for women, paid medical leave, a hike in the minimum wage and the need for affordable childcare.
“Let’s get to work to get it, all of it done, and just put it to people: You would vote against your wife, your daughter, your mother, your sister being treated equally in the workplace? Forget that, forget that,” she said.
The event, hosted by Tierney in conjunction with North Shore Community College, drew an audience of more than 100 to hear the former speaker of the House roll out a new economic agenda called “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds.”
Pelosi also praised Tierney as a champion for women and Americans in the workplace, noting that the Salem Democrat serves on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
“Everybody professes to care about these issues and that it’s important, and I support that,” Pelosi said. “But John Tierney makes it a priority.”
During a press conference, reporters asked Pelosi why she was appearing alongside Tierney, given that the House Ethics Committee is considering whether to open an investigation into his failure to disclose money that his wife had received from her brother.
Tierney’s wife received more than $200,000 from her brother, who was involved in illegal gambling, in return for managing a bank account for him. Tierney has said the money was a gift from a relative and did not need to be disclosed.
The committee will decide by Sept. 11 whether to launch an investigation.
“A champion for the agenda in Congress has been John Tierney,” Pelosi told reporters. “I’m here to recognize that and meet his constituents and to hear their views on the subject.
“I would be coming if he had no opposition whatsoever, because we are here on what we do — policy — to have ideas to turn into law to make life better for people. And that is what John Tierney is all about.”
When pressed by a television reporter about why Pelosi didn’t wait until the ethics issue was cleared up, Pelosi shot back: “I have been waiting a long time for women to have an increase in the minimum wage.”
She has tackled ethics issues in Congress, she said, and yesterday’s appearance was driven by the women’s economic agenda, not politics.
Asked whether an ethics probe is warranted, Pelosi said she does not know whether the situation merits one, but added, “I welcome it, and I think John does, too, to just clear up the issue.”
“Let’s get it done,” Tierney interjected.
Pelosi said the new economic agenda is not necessarily a government-funded issue.
“Maybe the minimum wage is not a cost to the federal government. Pay equity, women being treated fairly in the workplace, is not a cost to the federal government. We are talking about public/private cooperation to lift up women in the workplace,” she said.
“This is not about a government program, it’s about a private initiative.”
Others, including Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, who was in the audience, spoke about issues they would like to see Pelosi tackle.
“I’m feeling like this is Girl Power Friday,” Driscoll joked. “Thanks for pulling us all together; now watch out, right?”
Driscoll wanted extended learning time in public schools to be part of the agenda.
“Early ed and expanded learning time for school-age children and adolescents, I look at that like a twofer,” said Driscoll. It not only provides support to single-parent families who need childcare, it boosts education, she said.
“We are trying to cure poverty, and we are trying to do that in our public schools every day,” she said.
The Salem School Committee recently voted to end an extended-year program at the Saltonstall School, over Driscoll’s objection.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.