Union Leaders Laud Retirng Rep. Miller, Top Labor Committee Dem

REP. GEORGE MILLER, D-Calif., top Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, announced his retirement, at the end of this Congress, after 40 years on Capitol Hill.  Union presidents lauded his leadership on workers’ right to organize, raising the minimum wage and job safety and health issues, among others.  Photo courtesy Rep. Miller’s office via PAI Photo Service.

REP. GEORGE MILLER, D-Calif., top Democrat on the
House Education and the Workforce Committee, announced his retirement, at the
end of this Congress, after 40 years on Capitol Hill. Union presidents lauded his leadership on
workers’ right to organize, raising the minimum wage and job safety and health
issues, among others. Photo courtesy
Rep. Miller’s office via PAI Photo Service.

WASHINGTON —Union leaders lauded retiring Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., longtime top Democrat and staunch workers’ defender on the House Education and the Workforce Committee.  Miller will end 40 years in Congress at the end of 2014.

Miller, known for championing laws ranging from raising the minimum wage to pushing the Employee Free Choice Act to strengthening job safety and health, said he would not seek re-election from his San Francisco Bay area district.

“I have not won every fight that I have waged.  And there remain, of course, many critical challenges waiting to be addressed.  But I have no regrets about what I have accomplished and what I have tried to accomplish in the public interest,” he said.

“Wealthy and powerful special interests have always had plenty of friends in Washington.  I came to Congress to stand up for the rest of us.  And I have learned a great deal in the process.  Two lessons stand out among many: First, that enacting progressive public policy is good for our economy and our country.  It helps to grow and strengthen the middle class, and that makes America a better place for everyone.

“And, second, that making good public policy is very hard work.  The job is never done.  It requires a great sense of urgency to move forward on the big issues and enormous stamina to see them all the way through.  The wins don’t come quickly, even when the need is dire, and the losses are hard to accept.

“And third, that elections matter.  Election results establish the basic parameters for what kind of legislation is possible,” Miller said.  The 2010 GOP/Tea Party sweep booted Miller from the House Education and Labor Committee chair and replaced him with rabid Right Winger John Kline, R-Minn., who also changed the panel’s name to eliminate the word “labor.”   Kline replaced it with “workforce.”

“It is impossible to imagine the struggle for fairness for working men and women without the leadership of George Miller,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said.  “Miller fights every day like it is his last to better the lives of working families.  He feels it in his gut, gives voice to it and acts without  hesitation or equivocation.  He understands a strong economy is built by investing in our greatest asset, the working men and women who wake this country up and put it to bed every day.

“From job safety to health care, from retirement security to the right to have a voice on the job, Miller has been a towering figure in the House.  He is quite simply a giant.  His record of accomplishment for America’s workers will not soon be matched.”

UFCW President Joe Hansen said Miller “will go down as one of the single greatest champions of working men and women in the history of Congress.”  He lauded Miller for leading fights for organizing rights, fair pay, workplace safety, for corporate accountability and for giving workers “a voice in the halls of power.”  Hansen also said Miller is still trying to solve one particular problem with the 2010 health care law: Its negative impact on multi-employer joint union-company health care plans. “It is simply undeniable that workers are better off because of his service,” Hansen concluded.

Teamsters President James Hoffa cited Miller’s work to raise the minimum wage — which Miller is undertaking again this year — and his advocacy for fair pay for women and for the right to organize.  “At a time when the everyday struggles facing many Americans are getting lost in the shuffle before Congress, Miller has always been there to stick up for workers.  Workers and their families have a loyal friend in Rep. Miller, and he won’t be easily replaced,” Hoffa said.

Miller’s retirement, and that of Sen. Thomas Harkin, D-Iowa, who came to Congress with Miller in the post-Watergate election of 1974, means Democrats on both congressional labor committees will have new leaders in 2015.

Harkin chairs the Senate labor panel. Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who now chairs the Budget Committee – a more-influential committee – and Bernard Sanders, Ind.-Vt. are behind him.  Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J. is behind Miller.

-PAI