tv Politics and Public Policy Today CSPAN May 31, 2016 11:42am-1:43pm EDT
>> by the time we got two or three decades away, when you can have the distance necessary not to just make a reactive and journalistic response, but something that is hopefully greater than the sum of its parts, you begin to realize almost everything you thought you knew was not true. >> and wednesday, a look at the war from the perspective of those who fought it and u.s. foreign relations after the war and those with vietnam. thursday at 8:00 p.m. eastern our reel america series looks at the 1975 hearings convened to investigate the intelligence activities of the cia, fbi, irs, and the nsa. and with the national museum of african-american history and culture opening in september, friday at 8:00 p.m. eastern, an all day conference with talks on african-american religion, politics and culture and african-american history as american history. >> i couldn't get that out of my mind. that my students were thinking that somehow this african-american history wasn't
real because it -- there was no textbook as there was in all of the american history courses taught in the department of history. and so i decided to write a real textbook. >> for the complete american history tv schedule, go to cspan.org. i apologize for telling everybody it would be 45 minutes. it ended up being a lot longer than that. please accept our apologies. i would like to turn to the ranking member for five minutes. thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman. let me first thank all of the witnesses for your moving
touching testimonies. i just went to the floor to vote and every member who was participating in the hearing were commenting how an incredible experience -- it is not every day that we have the opportunity to make a positive contribution in making sure that we open the door of opportunity for everyone in america. so thank you so very much. mr. hernon, one of the misconceptions about hiring individuals with disabilities is the need for costly accommodations. can you elaborate on what ultra took. >> we don't have the ability to do costly anything. we run a lean company and a profitable business.
a lot of the things we've put in place, i would argue are things that any business should do to be more efficient. so we have communication tools we use and communication rules we've put in place that take a lot of the unwritten rules in a workplace that can be confusing and inefficient for anyone and make them explicit. for example, at ultra, if you say don't e-mail the client directly unless it's important. if you do, keep it short, what is important? and what is short? and is it really worth anyone's time to spend minutes or hours trying to figure out what that is? at ultra, an e-mail has to be 700 characters or less, if it takes two reiterations to resolve it you should talk live. >> can you elaborate on how the federal government can incentivize its larger contractors to utilize the diverse work force and the talents of innovative small
businesses like yours? >> so, as you know, section 503 of the rehabilitation act includes a goal of 7% of a contractor's work force being individuals with disabilities. that goal doesn't do a lot to support small businesses who are not likely to be government contractors. on the other hand, could serve as subcontractors, small businesses are much more likely than large companies to be innovate cive and employ individuals on the spectrum. change in policy that would allow a subcontractor's employees to count towards a large contractor's 7% goal could catalyze an entirely new eco system of small businesses, employing people with disabilities partnering with large contractors and ultimately doing better business and being better for society. >> thank you. ms. goring, as you mentioned,
your organization has hosts various programs including town halls and small business accelerator. about employing those with asd. what were some of the biggest lessons you learned from this program? and are there any take aways that will be helpful as the committee looks into further non-traditional employees? >> we learned a couple of things. first we learned that you need to do what's best for the business. and that it needs to make sense for the business and you lead with that. you lead with the quality of the product or the service that you're providing. and then the second piece can be that it happens to be a person with autism. first and foremost you lead with that. to that point, we found that many of the small businesses and entrepreneurs maybe didn't have as much business sense as they needed to. we provided them with
information about how they can build their business, how to make it a profitable business. and the third piece was to provide very specific training about what exactly the job entails, what outcomes you're looking for, and to break it down into small steps that are taught and then chained together. those are some of the things we found to be helpful. >> miss hogan, in your testimony you discussed how your company partners with local schools. can you elaborate on how partnering with school benefits both small businesses and individuals with disabilities seeking employment? >> so are you asking how -- what do we do to partner with these schools and how do we make this work? well, one thing that's really important to me is we bring the educators into our company and give them tours so that they can see the type of jobs that are out there that they need to go back to their schools to teach the skills.
and so we have done this for several of the schools that are involved with the transition schools. like from 18 to 22. you have transition-type schools keep their students still learning. unless they go to project search. what's important is for them to see what we have and go back to the project schools and teach the skills. >> yields back. we're going into a second round. i know mr. smith is coming back to ask questions. as i mentioned before, what happens oftentimes, this is our leaving town today. once votes are over they scatter like scalded dogs.
i'll start with you. how has employing individuals with autism impacted your business bottom line and is there any advice you want to give to businesses out there that might consider working with folks with autism? >> i would say we consider our selves one of the best software testing companies in the world because of the team members we have. we've shown over and over again when we've been bench marked against competitors, on shore and off shore, we've done better. we tested the webbys, which are like oscars and web, within a week found 20% more bugs and issues than the partner they were working with. we won a project away from ibm and found 66% more bugs than the ibm team for a fortune 500 -- fortune 100 financial services company. the reason we're able to do
that, three-quarters of our company have asperger's syndrome or similar autism spectrum profile and have the exact profile we're looking for to do software testing. and have the raw talent but also the perseverance, the ability to work with teams and we have managers that work with our teams who are veteran technologists that join our company to be part off a company that has purpose and emissions. so, we're able attract fantastic talent. >> in your testimony, you had mentioned what a great employee mike is and works hard and comes on time and everything else. but most interestingly, it's had a positive impact on other employees and made them better employees. and obviously a small business, that's important to being successful, and keeping everybody employed and hiring
more people. so how has that been the case? are there stories or examples where the quality of mike has improved the quality of the other employees? the mike again, if you would. >> i have brought with me some stories that several have written. >> go ahead. >> i read through them and they are all like amazing. and this one is very interesting to me because it has the perspective of someone who didn't know anything about the disability world. okay. so he says my journey began three months ago when i started at my new company, contemporary cabinets east. i was assigned to the etch banner and mike was my co worker on the machine. mike is my first extended exposure to down's syndrome. i'll be honest, i entered our work relationship with a certain amount of trepidation. there were a lot of unknowns for me about what i was getting go. at the same time i was so excited about the opportunity presented to me. in my limited experiences with
down's syndrome, i've always found individuals to be gentle with incredibly big, loving hearts, and mike is no exception. my ignorance is being erased. my concerns have dissipated. i have to say being around mike is one of the greatest joys i take from being at my job. his kindness and willingness to help anyone who asked is admiration. he has earned my respect and affection. mike teaches me every day how to love more. his out look reminds me to appreciate the things and people in my life. his presence somehow frees me so i can be in the me that sometimes i'm afraid to be. i'm a happier person because of my friend mikey. >> that's excellent. thank you very much. i appreciate it. i have a minute and 15 seconds left in my time and two people i'd like to ask questions to. rather than asking a long question, i'll start with you, miss good morning, and then ray. we didn't have time to ask a lot of questions. for 30 seconds, what would you
like to tell us that you haven't already told us that you think we ought to know that might be helpful to folks out there that might consider hiring folks with autism or down syndrome or any other disability? >> i think it's important to start early when they're still in school to work on some of the skills needed and do that out in the work place in the real environment as much as possible. >> thank you very much. and joe and ray. >> yes, basically i would say a similar thing as far as if they could -- a lot of people that have significant disabilities, their ability to work, working for someone in a job or owning a business, they will surprise you what they can do when they realize that it's theirs and that's the same with joe. we'd hoped he would come here where he's doing this for us. >> thank you very much. my time expired. you stayed right in that time. excellent.
thank you. and the gentleman from new jersey, mr. smith, recognized for five minutes. >> thank you for convening this extremely important and timely hearing. what a team of people committed to expanding job opportunities. nobody creates more job opportunities than small business. it's timely for other reasons. the autism cares act enacted in 2014, august 8th, 2014. as you know, the administration has been given a marching orders to look at every aspect, all the inventories of what we're doing in every area including employment, for people with disabilities and autism. and they matriculate from minor states to adult, they lose education -- the challenges are almost overwhelming and we will
get a capacity assessment on or before august 8th. it will probably be late. it will be a blueprint, because small business will be -- i think the key role in that employment piece. i also would point out that gao is also undertaken a comprehensive study, assessment, unmet needs. that, too, first iteration of that which will probably come out in two or three reports will be in july. so, again, mr. chairman, you're ahead of the game. you're laying out -- your witnesses were extraordinary. i can't wait to taste the popcorn. i think like everyone here. but thank you so very much for this. and frankly, our other commities of congress to be following this lead, education workforce and others, in terms of how we position for an employment breakout.
you know, there needs to be a radical transformation on our outdated and i think very foolish views as to what people with disabilities, including people with autism, can contribute. and i think the statement that was made by joe stephy about how his iep team had so utterly failed him with the low expectations game and said the worst disability, quoting him, is that of low expectations. and to that, thank you for the love you show for your son and that support. all of us need support teams, persons with disabilities need those support teams as well. and the quintessential example of a family who just gets behind their son lock, stock and barrel. i have a few couple of questions. many but i know there's a time limit. i had a hearing where we heard from sap who is in the process of hiring 650 people by 2020. they already have 100. and they made the exact same
points that were made today and made so eloquently. part of their testimony was in spite of autism and because of autism and the very special skillset that is brought to the employment table, one of the things that was pointed out and perhaps our distinguished witnesses could speak to it. that is there needs tab rethinking of talent acquisition processes and businesses, there needs to be the interview methods, which very often are a barrier that needs to be overcome and if you could, to speak to the accommodations issue. there was a very important study, the january workplace accommodations study, updated in 2015. 58% of the accommodations cost absolutely nothing. it's a matter of will.
beyond that, beyond $500. we're not talking about any kind of onerous burden financially. and the ability to do a job exceedingly well. i would ask if you could speak to the chambers working with you and nfib and the other great groups, they have a very import role to play with this as well. again, low expectations game. i know it's the educational piece but how do we get those who are creating these ieps to be much more knowledgeable about the very young person they're working with to say you can really dream and dream large and there's a whole path for you into the future. so those couples of things. >> so i think it starts with job sampling to start that early. small businesses are sometimes great opportunities to start some of that job sampling. you'd be surprised some of the things, the preconceived notions
you thought would be the right job for person aren't always true. but you can actually learn what they are good at. in terms of the interview process, videos have been very, very helpful. so you don't need have that oral exchange as much as you can show a video of the terrific work someone can do. and then in terms of accommodations, i think we've all seen some of the accommodations are no more than having a script in place for someone so they know exactly what to say when they pick up the phone. it could be writing out some of the rules that we take as sort of unwritten rules but if they're just laid out clearly, as ultratesting did, 700 characters. you couldn't get more clearer than that. how many exchanges. those are the types of accommodations that don't cost anything but have tremendous dividends not just for those with disabilities but really for everyone. >> so first i'd like to say we don't see any of the changes
we've made to how a business works as accommodations. that's how we collaborate and we're collaborating across people who are very different strengths. it just makes us better. we deliver better results. it makes us more efficient. and i think if you take something like recruiting and resume tells you how good someone is at writing a resume. a firm handshake and eye contact maybe works for your job but has nothing to do with software testing. so for companies to be disciplined and rigorous about what it is they're actually looking for and collect data to validate they are finding what they are getting rather than letting natural human biases override our assessment of what someone is capable is critical. and make sure like we do, and we have a 95% success rate to out perform ibm. >> thank you very much. time expired. thank you very much.
and i'd like to yield as much time as you'd like to consume to the ranking member. >> one more question. i would like to ask ray, what advice will you give similarly situated individuals and families that are interested in starting their own business? >> at different times when we've spoke to groups, especially parents that have kids with special needs, we kind of put it in this way. you have a choice. you can sit on the couch and worry about what is going to happen to your child when you're gone, and we all agree worry takes energy. or you could take that same amount energy and put it towards an endeavor that can develop to be something that could go on far beyond you. and basically, that is kind of the message we have. also helping them look for resources to bring funds available to start in an
endeavor that the child is interested in, not the adult parents. >> so you see a role for government to play? >> oh, yes. yes, i do. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you very much. gentlelady yields back. >> we want to thank this panel very much. for this testimony. sorry that you got interrupted by votes but it's an operational hazard around this place, especially on heading out of town day. i'd like to close by noting that somebody in the room happens to be my chief of staff -- why don't you wave to them down there. staph, you wouldn't know it, but stacy has ms, multiple sclerosis, and i can't keep us with her, to be honest with you. she's great and she has a daughter who just turned 18 who has autism. her name is norgan, and she's great. i met her for the first time a couple of days ago.
she's always talking about her family. i been kidding her telling her she made up this family when she talks about her husband and kids but i know they exist because i saw morgan with my own eyes because her class was here for a capitol tour, and i took pictures and told them stuff and answered questions, amazing questions. i struggled to answer them but they were wonderful. i appreciate your hard work. and she's tough. i'm scared of her, to be honest with you. but it's been a great hearing. i think all the members that were here and the ones that had -- were here before and had to take off for their districts, we learned a lot. thank you. thank you for being an inspiration to all of us and doing your jobs and doing them well and helping others do their jobs and just have a better life.
so, thank you so much and i would ask you to consent, that members have five legislative days to submit statements and supporting materials for the record. oh yes, one more thing. popcorn joe has popcorn out there for everybody. and so, please enjoy that and thank you, joe and ray, for providing that for us. and if there's no further business before the committee, we're adjourned.
former israeli and military officials, the israel-palestinian conflict. c-span will be live for the center for new american unt. american history tv programming normally seen on the weekends here on k-span 3. tonight 50th anniversary of vietnam war, filmmaker burns and secretary of state kerry, a vet. american history tv tonight at
8:00 eastern. tomorrow washington journal will be in laredo, texas, the first of a two-day look at immigration and trade along the u.s.-mexico border. one of the people they talked with already is chief u.s. border control agent there. apprehensions we've had so far in the first six months of this year are mexican nationals. folks that are coming from mexico, trying to make their entrance into the united states. we also see a number of people from central and south america. we see folks from guatemala, salvador, people as far away as brazil, china, other parts of
the world. it's thought confined to one particular area, but the majority of the folks we see in laredo are from mexico. >> how do they make the trip? >> contracting with smuggling organizations or criminal organizations to finance their trip to the united states. they pay anywhere from $1500 to $50,000 depending on how far they are coming, what types of techniques they are using, whether fraudulent documents or not and how long that trip is going to take. depending where they are coming from, they pay a significant price. of course it also depends where they go into the united states. if they are going to be smuggled and transported into the interior of the united states obviously play a little more than if you're dropped off at the international boundary. >> who is doing the smuggling? >> most of the folks doing the smuggling are criminals. folks that are dedicating their
lives to smuggling aliens and/or narcotics. what folks don't understand, the people they think are just tried to do a humanitarian effort, trying to transport them or help the migrant get into the united states is actually part of a criminal enterprise whose only job is really to charge a quota or collect that price the el yen is willing to pay in order to get into the united states. then they find themselves being exploited at every level of the transaction. whether at the recruitment level, transportation level. we see young ladies that are being raped, we see folks robbed, people kidnapped and exploited for more money once they put their hands in the lives of these smugglers. once they are transported, because they are criminal, all they want to do is get away. we see folks exposed to
high-speed pursuits once they are stopped by the police, border patrol, rollover accidents, folks left in the desert because they can't walk anymore or fall ill and smugglers don't want to get caught. they abandon them in the desert. so far this year, first six months, laredo sector along we've seen 33 deaths so far this year. seeing a number of different smuggling schemes. for example, concealment methods within passenger vehicles, concealment in commercial vehicles. we see folks trying to clone their vehicles to make it look like they belong to an industry, really isn't an industry vehicle to mask that they are smuggling into the u.s. some of the trucks you see in the background, are exploited as well to introduce narcotics and people into the united states which becomes somewhat dangerous and problematic to us. with the heat surpassing the 100
degree mark in laredo pretty soon and into the summer months, when you get a load of 25 or 30 people that are hidden in the back of these tractor-trailers and no air conditioning and no way to get out of those tractor-trailers becomes very dangerous to us. it's important to identify that smuggling operation before we have a tragic event. so what happens is normally commodities come across international boundary and they are inspected by customs and border protection, office of field operations and they are sboud into the united states legally. once they do that they go to warehouses in which a commodity may be broken down or four or five different trucks. one truck, broken down four or five different trucks to go to distribution points throughout the country. that's just the way our economy works and our businesses are able to get products they are sboug into mexico from different
parts of the world, different parts of the country in the case of the united states. well, there are plenty of opportunities in that process after he makes his entrance into the united states with that commodity or that truck to be used in a smuggling event. so there's plenty of opportunities for either people and/or narcotics to be introduced into that commercial environment. so our checkpoints afford us the opportunity to be able to screen that traffic once again before it's leaving the actual border area and before it goes into the major highways and buy ways of the united states. >> so how are you going about screening here? what would a truck or noncommercial truck go through? >> so these trucks or passing vehicles are actually screened by border patrol agent who talks with a driver. we may look at the bill of lading, where are the commodities they are transporting and where they are transporting them from and to. but we also have an opportunity to expose them to canine units.
canine units designed not just hidden narcotics but may be transported in vehicles. if there's any suspicion that arises with that border patrol agent, that vehicle can be secondary inspection area where we use 92 inspection devices to be able to look at that truck's commodity and to be able to look at that trailer and frame of that truck. we've arrested 145 people from october 31st to march 31st. it is preventive. talk about the fact most of these folks paying $1500 to $50,000 for their smuggling event that adds up and gives you a context how much money there is to be made. >> c-span's washington journal
live from u.s./mexico border for two days starting tomorrow. brandon darby managing editor for breitbart, nelly vielma discusses deportation law and of a fredo courtado. lynn brezosky will discuss trade across the border. congressman cuella talks about how trade benefits the country. bob cash texas trade coalition and nafta critic looks at the trade deal's impact on jobs, from southern texas to mexico. washington journal live from laredo, texas, starting at 7:30
eastern on c-span. >> i think today we sort of catch up to the 20th century. we've been the invisible half of congress the last seven years. we've watched our house colleagues with interest, at least i have with interest. tv coverage of members of congress and house. >> today communication comes out of the dark ages, we create another historic moment in the relationship between congress and technological advancements between communications with radio and television. 50 years ago our executive branch began appearing on television. today marks the first time when our legislative branch in its entirety appear on that medium of communication through which most americans get their information about what our government and our country does.
>> televising represents a wise and warranted policy. broadcast media coverage recognizes the basic right and need of the citizens of our nation to know the business of their government. >> thursday, c-span marks 30th anniversary of live gavel to gavel coverage. special programming key moments from the senate floor in the last 30 years. >> i would show to you the body of evidence from this question, do you trust william jefferson clinton. >> we have just witnessed something that has never before happened in all of senate history. a change of power during a session of congress. >> what the american people still don't understand in this bill is there's three areas in this bill that in the next five years will put the government in charge of everybody's health care. >> plus an interview with senate majority leader mitch mcconnell
prosecute i'm sure i made a number of mistakes in my years but voting against having swx span televise was one of them. >> watch 30 years of the u.s. senate on television beginning thursday on c-span. to see more of our 30 years of coverage of the u.s. senate on c-pan 2, go to c-span.org. >> author, consumer advocate ralph nader a speak on community organizing hosted by center for study for responsive law in washington, d.c. speakers talked about their personal or organizational struggles to change some aspect of government, regulation and/or the law. this is about three hours. >> ralph nader is the author, 50
years. numerous environmental, worker protection laws in our country that made it an all together better place to live. lewis grizzard late great humorist said something we in the south know is true. there's a great big difference between being naked and being naked. being naked means have you no clothes on. being nekked means you have no clothes on and you're up to something. i'll leave any image of nader naked to your own imagination. the truth is ralph is always coming up with something including this great democracy rally. ralph nader.
[ applause ] >> thank you very much. thank you -- thank you to jim hightower and greetings to all of you here and those watching around the country through live streaming. thanks to the real news network out of baltimore, maryland. this is, indeed, the largest gathering of citizen advocacy groups covering more directions redirections and reforms ever brought together under one roof. most conferences are focused on single important issues. we thought it would be important to demonstrate one speaker after another, what is involved in building the civic community, the civil society, it was in many ways a demonstration that the whole is greater than the
sum of its parts. we all know that problems and injustices in society are all connected to one another. even though they may be treated in a specialized way. what's important to focus on is how did these groups accomplish what they accomplished? that's why we asked them to talk about their accomplishments. citizen groups are not very good at celebrations. they will celebrate the 20th, 30th or 40th or 50th anniversary, but they're so busy doing their work, that they can't compare to the celebrations in the sports arena and the entertainment arena, and the political arena, many of which are always covered by the mass media. but this is more than a celebration. it's an elaboration forward to the next 50 years. and to shape the kind of much, much stronger civil society
that's needed in terms of resources, in terms of education, in terms of grassroot mobilization, in terms of redefining leadership so that it becomes a force that produces more leaders and not just more followers. but the occasion is the 50th anniversary year of "unsafe at any speed" and the occasion is an opportunity to briefly look backward and see what it was like in the early '60s here in washington, d.c. it was pretty barren territory for citizens groups. the lobbies here, weren't as great as they are now in terms of number and staff, but they were pretty much all over capitol hill and all over
the various agencies. i remember when i was going up to one office after another in the senate and the house, i could see that there was a pall over anything called consumer protection or environmental protection or worker protection. senator magnussen, powerful chair of the senate conference committee, was considered the business agent on capitol hill for all kinds of industries and commerce. i remember trying to call the senate office building offices, and they would always ask, who are you with? i would call agencies and they would say, who are you with? i sort of look around, you know, who am i with? i'm a citizen. one time i was in a parking lot and made a call to a senator's
office to talk to a staffer and the receptionist said, who are you with? luckily, there was a dog that yapped right into the phone and i heard a click. i guess they weren't amused. the -- but we persisted and developed the critical quadrangle of civic success in washington, d.c. the first is full-time advocates pressing for the change. the second is, a reception to public hearings in the house and senate by the critical chairs. the third is, open-mindedness in the white house. not knee-jerk vetoism. and the fourth is, the mass media. the mass media not just
reporting, but reflecting and communicating the public sentiment or, to use abraham lincoln's words, the public sentiment what we say today is majority opinion. so when you have majority opinion and you have a receptive congress, and you have an open-minded white house, and you have a media that looks at these issues as regular beats, not just occasional features seeking pulitzer prizes or other prizes, you have that critical quadrangle for success. and after the passage in 1966 of the highway motor vehicle safety laws, signed too law by lyndon johnson, in september 1966, a little over nine months after unsafe speed came out, imagine the kind of speed that occurred those days in congress compared
to now. after that, there was a profusion of civic activity, citizen groups were started, others were expanded and the environmental consumer worker area open government, a whole variety of citizen groups, opened their doors. brought in young people, interns, brought in people of activity going back to the 1930s, as well as people who honed their skills for the first time in the critical task of seeking justice. i remember in particular the
establishment of one agency after another the occupational safety and health administration environmental protection agency, consumer product safety commission, the establishing the air and water pollution laws, critical umbrella air air and water pollution laws that continue to this day and other laws, guess who signed them? richard nixon. why did richard nixon sign them? he didn't believe in them. he had flourishing introductions to them that were really terrific and he signed one after another because he feared the rumble from the people coming out of the '60s. he's the last republican president to be afraid of liberals, i might add. and it was a rumble of the people reflecting majority sentiment that radiated towards this national capital and made him sign legislation that given his ideological predilections
would have been very, very improbable otherwise. so the sequence was, an aroused public, directing its attention to the commercial interests, telling them they better restrain themselves, focusing on the existing law to elaborate it on political and government institutions, and getting through the media. the importance of the civil society is hard to exaggerate. looking over american history, it's hard to see any major social justice movement that started from within government or from within business or from within any institution, it started in the hearts and minds of very few people, the people who started the abolition movement against slavery in the late 18th century, early 19th
century, started the women's suffrage movement, six women meeting in a farmhouse in upstate new york in the 1840s. the sitdown strikes by workers in flint, michigan, and warren, michigan, to start the united auto workers. rosa parks refusing to go to the rear of the bus in montgomery, alabama, to flash the latest stage of the civil rights movement. it all starts with a few people and we should never be demoralized by forgetting that historical principle. it starts with small community, small groups. what's happened today the commercialization of our elections, from the profit centers that the presidential debates have offered to the commercial media like fox and cnn and others, who put on these debates, and decide who's going to be in tier one and tier two, imagine that, super pacs and
business of raising money to advance through our electoral process, commercial values over civil values, the commercialization of these elections have reached a point in american history where they're off limits to democracy itself. they are off limits to democracy's civil community. the people who are the experts, movers and shakers in our country in these civil communities, citizen groups some of which you'll see today, are not asked for their participation. they're not asked for their expertise by the media or by the political consultants. when elections are off limits to democracy, a society is in real trouble. the importance of these groups reflect what can be called a civic personality. we've heard of an athletic
personality, the athlete who has that nth degree to win. we've heard of the entrepreneurial personality to start new businesses where no one has tread before, but we don't often talk about the civic personality. people who you'll see on this stage throughout the day and day two, three and four, of this week, which we have called breaking through power, which also can be called a civic marathon, they have the features of a civic personality. they know how to separate truth from fiction. they know how to be resilient. they know how to repel discouragement. they know how to share credit. they know how to keep up to date on the information. they know know how to have patience and long attention
spans. they know how to have the short view and the longview. they know how -- and like to teach young people who will be their successors. these and others, including a ever more refined strategic and tactical sense represent a civic personality that no one is really born with. it's something that's learned. it can be taught in our schools. but it is not. it can be taught in terms of on-the-job training. it can be heralded as well. if we had a more rationale society in terms of our definition of heroism, we would not only have a hollywood academy awards, we would have a national civic achievement academy awards. and a lot of the people you'll
see on this stage, would be nominees for those awards. these are people who could have minimized themselves and continued successfully through life materially. instead they chose to maximize themselves in the great quest for justice which senator daniel webster once called the great work of human beings on earth. what we have found in terms of the experience of these groups and others around the country, is that 1% or less of the population in any congressional district or state legislative district or state legislative district, organized and engaged in pursuing a change or a redirection or a reform, and reflecting majority opinion is unstoppable.
it doesn't matter how powerful corporations think they are, how indentured politicians think they are, it's an unstoppable force. many of the groups today had far less than 1% organized throughout the country supporting their efforts on capitol hill. that's something to think about. because we talk -- we hear a lot about the other 1% that rules us. popularized by occupy wall street. but i think it's time to talk about this 1% that throughout history, it has taken less than 1% in terms of people rolling up their civic sleeves, spending a few hundred hours a year raising necessary money for full-time staff, and pursuing the strategies for victory.
when you look at what these groups have accomplished, i want to compare at the right time what the ceos have been paid. the entire cumulative budget of all these groups who will present their life's work before you today, and you'll only get a glimmer of their quality and the quality of their colleagues, and what they are up against. the entire cumulative budget is less than the budget -- excuse me, is less than the executive compensation of the ceo of discovery communications, gamco investors, microsoft corporation, oracle corporation, lions gate entertainment corporation.
what's the lesson from that? the lesson is, that there needs to be more investment in justice. there needs to be more investment in these groups, in starting new citizen groups, and planting the seeds for a more intense force of democracy. [ applause ] justice needs money. the abolition movement was funded by rich bostonians and new yorkers. the women's suffrage movement drew on rich philadelphians, among others. in 1950s the civil rights and environmental movements and in the '60s drew on families such as the stern family from louisiana and the curry family from virginia.
we would like to have some enlightened very wealthy people recognize that their legacy to america is not in their material accomplishments. their respect for posterity is not what they bequeath to their descendents, that their legacy to america is to unfurl the civic and political energies of the american people to turn our country into what it can be and what it can be overseas as well. finally, i want to conclude by
urging all of you to spread the word by your appearance today and watching it on live stream, you have preselected yourselves in terms of interests and commitment reflecting your own civic energies. it's important to have a resurgence of civic activism after years of powerful cooperate forces turning washington, d.c., into corporate occupied territory and throwing so many of the citizens groups on the defensive. occupy territory and throwing so many of the citizen groups on the defensive. it's important for you to spread the word, not just in the following days here on day two, breaking through the media, day three, breaking through war, waging war. peace is powerful. war is weak. and day four on thursday may 26th, breaking through congress.
the single most important branch of government by far and the one that only has 535 men and women, who put their shoes on like you and i do every day, put who have to understand that their power comes from we, the people, the preamble to our constitution, which does to the read "we the corporations or we the congress," it reads "we the people." [ applause ] turning that institution around, with less than 1% organized back home reflecting public sentiment and long overdue changes in our country and its impact on the world, will revolutionize the aspirations for the urgent development of a deep democracy. thank you. i turn you over to jim hightower. [ applause ]
>> away we go. thank you, ralph. let's bring on one of the democracy fighters right now, shawn armbrust is engaged in the life and death side of public interest work. more than a decade has been a executive director of the mid-atlantic innocence project, literally trying to deal with folks who have been wrongly jailed, imprisoned for 10, 20, 30 years, even more. she's a board member of the innocence network all across our country as well. you have to be tenacious and you have to be creative do this kind of law. my mama taught me years ago two wrongs don't make a right, but i soon figured out that three left turns do. and that's the kind of
creativity that shawn armbrust has been practicing for many years. shawn armbrust. [ applause ] >> good morning. thank you so much for including me in such a terrific event with such terrific organizizations. it's an honor to be here today and i hope i'm able to give all of you a sense of how the innocence movement collectively has broken through power to not only free hundreds of innocent people but also to begin the process of achieving real systemic change. i'm the executive director of the mid-atlantic innocence project which works to prevent and correct the conviction of innocent people in d.c., maryland and virginia using dna and other evidence of innocence. we've freed 21 innocent people and helped pass 11 laws that would help prevent or make it easier to correct wrongful convictions. it's one of the highest success rates in the nation, and we're
doing it with a fraction of the resources we need. and a fraction of the resources of some of our peer organizations. but we're part of a larger innocence network which has more than 60 separate organizations that all work to get innocent people out of prison. together, we're freeing innocent people and changing laws all over the country that are making the criminal justice system a little bit more just. since 1989, there have been 347 dna exonerations, and almost 1800 non-dna exonerations, from both network projects and other terrific lawyers from all over the country. i want to tell you the story of the innocence movement today. why it started, how it started, what it has accomplished and what we still have left to accomplish. and since our strength lies in the stories of the wrongfully
convicted themselves, that's how i want to tell you the story today. i want to do that by taking you back to 1986, an important year in the innocence movement. it was the first time dna was used in court in a criminal case in the uk. a year later, dna first appeared in a u.s. courtroom. dna was revolutionary because it allowed us to take physical evidence from a crime scene, something other than fingerprints and use it to compare to a specific person. either identifying them or excluding them. it's taught us volumes about the types of evidence we relied on before 1986, things we didn't know about then, and it's in that context that case i want to talk to you about today occurred. on february 23rd, 1986, a woman was alone in the laundry room of her south richmond apartment building, a little before 10:00 p.m. a man walked in, carrying a knife and wearing a stocking mask that covered his face.
he told her to be quiet got behind her and shoved her toward the door. he began undressing her. when they got outside she started fighting back. she screamed and was able to lift the stocking mask to see a little bit more of his face. he eventually got spooked and ran away. the victim did her best to describe the attacker. she'd only seen the bottom half of his face. but she described a white man who was about 6 feet tall, 175 pounds, wore a red and white plaid shirt, had light colored shoulder length hair, a beard and high cheek bones. because this was an attempted rape and not a rape, they couldn't even use the limited forensic science they had in 1986. all they had was the victim who did a composite sketch. the composite was circulated to
other police officers and one of them thought it looked like a man named mike mcalister. mike was 29. a little over 6 feet tall. had light colored shoulder-length hair, a beard, and high cheek bones. he had no history of violence, but did have a history of alcohol abuse and a few alcoho alcohol-related incidents of indecent exposure. his apartment was a few miles to the crime scene. when police got to his house he was wearing a red, white and blue plaid shirt. police wanted to take a photo of him and told him to change his shirt. mike said no. he didn't have anything to hide why would he change it? police included that foti as one of nine they showed the victim. mike was the only one wearing a plaid shirt and only one whose features closely matched the description of the perpetrator so mike was arrested.
mike's trial lasted four and a half hours and the only evidence linking him to the crime was the victim's testimony. mike was convicted of abduction and attempted rape. that could have been the end of the story but a little before trial the lead detective heard about a man named norman bruce. he was a white man about 6 feet tall with light colored hair and a beard. he tended to wear plaid shirts. and he was a serial rapist. he had been followed by police officers in other counties but he avoided detection because he usually wore stocking masks during his crimes. mike didn't know this until 2015, but many of his 1985 and 1986 attacks were in laundry rooms in south richmond just a couple miles from the crime that mike was charged with. when the detectives saw durst's photo he thought it looked a lot like the description of the
attacker in mike's case and i'm going to tell you when i saw those two photos side by side for the first time i couldn't tell them apart. but after the victim saw durst's photo, she was still sure that mike was her attacker. and the trial went forward. even after mike was convicted the prosecutor started having doubts about mike's guilt. he talked to the judge and they gave mike a polygraph but it was inconclusive. he was sentenced to 50 years in prison. he lost his appeal because his trial was considered fair. and there was nothing anyone could do. at that time, people who weren't in the criminal defense world, weren't all that aware of the problem of wrongful convictions. a few academics had written articles about wrongful convictions in capital cases but those just devolved into debates about whether those particular people were innocent not conversations about what caused
the wrongful convictions and what could be done to prevent them. but that started to change in 1989. when gary dotson became the first man in the u.s. to be exonerated by dna testing. from 1989 to 1992, ten people were exonerated based on dna evidence proving their innocence and this was a game changer. these exonerations didn't hinge on the reliability of witnesses, they were scientific proof that innocent people got convicted. barry shek and peter newfeld knew we convicted too many innocent people in this country and also knew as long as the fight was about the credibility of witnesses, we couldn't really have that conversation. so in 1992, they founded the innocence project in new york. litigating cases all over the country in which dna testing could prove innocence.
shortly after that, mike mcalister got a new lawyer. the lawyer learned that norman durst's attacks looked a lot like the attack mike was convicted of. he attacked women alone, using a knife, he was easily spooked, and he even said some of the exact same things. but more importantly, the lead detective and prosecutor in the case had come to believe that they had arrested and convicted the wrong man. and in some places that would have allowed mike to be released from prison, but in virginia, the trial court is not allowed to do anything in a case more than 21 days after a person is convicted. and there was no other way in virginia to bring new evidence of innocence before a court. the rule was absolute. no exceptions. mike had a parole date coming and the detective and prosecutor wrote letters supporting his parole. they even appeared before the
parole board on his behalf but didn't matter, his parole was denied. and as that was happening, the innocence movement was getting started. in 2000, the first innocence network conference with ten mostly new innocence organizations including my own was held in chicago. between 1993 and 2001, 91 more people were exonerated based on dna testing. and that was true even though our system isn't set up to deal with the problem of innocent people in prison. that's because our system cries as finality. it's hard to raise claims of newly discovered evidence of innocence, hard to prove constitutional violations and hard to get around all the procedural barriers designed to keep people from trying to do those things. so it became clear very early that innocence movement needed to address not just the disturbing number of innocent people in prison, but also the
system's inability to correct that problem after the fact, and the things that cause wrongful convictions in the first place. during this time some people in power were beginning to notice there was a problem started passing laws allowing for post conviction dna testing raised questions about the death penalty and talking about the things that caused wrongful convictions but the prevailing norm was still to be tough on crime. a period of time saw democrats take the crime issue away from republicans issuing their own tough on crime policies 1994 crime bill to the 1996 anti-terrorism and effective death penalty reform act which made it nearly impossible to use habeas corpus to free innocent prisoners. despite all of the setbacks 2002 was a blockbuster year for the innocence movement. 25 people were exonerated by dna
testing, still the highest number of dna exonerations in any one year to date. dna exonerations became part of the public consciousness and people were starting to understand that the system made mistakes. it also was a big year for mike mcalister. people had forgotten about him. but his mom wrote to frank green, a reporter at the "richmond times dispatch" who began writing about his case. a new lawyer also signed on to help mike. and he filed a pardon petition with then virginia governor mark warner. virginia was no stranger to the problem of wrongful convictions and had seen its share of eyewitness error but in 2003, mike's petition was denied. the governor's staff said it would be one thing if mike had dna evidence but he didn't. from 2003 to 2013, 187 people were exonerated by dna testing. that decade also saw a real change in the conversation about
the criminal justice system. with even more states passing laws that allowed dna testing and some even starting to pass laws that would help improve eyewitness i.d. procedures prevent false confessions and regulate state crime labs. even virginia passed a law in part because of mike's case that allowed people with newly discovered evidence of innocence to get back in court in very limited circumstances. mike eventually made parole but he had to register as a sex offender and had never gotten treatment for alcohol abuse. so he did a lousy job complying, began drinking again and sent back to prison. norman bruce durst convicted two of crimes during that decade. 2006 and 2012, he was convicted of two 1984 rapes, one in virginia and one in charles county, maryland, based on dna cold hits. i learned about the charles county case because of a man named jerry jenkins.
jerry had been convicted of a similar charles county rape based on the testimony of a victim who said he looked like the perpetrator and jerry had always been adamant that he was innocent. now he believe dur was the perpetrator. we began representing jerry, found the dna evidence, and did the testing that proved that jerry was right. he was innocent. dur was guilty. jerry was exonerated in 2013. few weeks later, i got a call from that reporter, frank green, who had never forgotten about mike. he asked me what we were going to do to get mike out. and we began to represent him. mike's innocence only became more clear the more we dug into the case and the more documents we received. but once again, virginia's criminal justice system fell short. we had no remedy for mike. we couldn't prove how much
police and prosecutors knew about dur because it had been so long and memories had faded we couldn't argue that evidence had been withheld. we couldn't prove that mike's trial lawyer was ineffective. we thought he knew something about dur but we didn't know what or when and we also couldn't prove the evidence was newly discovered, because it's possible that everyone knew about it but just didn't know how to use it. we were stuck. to make matters worse, in early 2015, the virginia attorney general's office decided that it was going to try to civilly commit mike as a sexually violent predator sending him to prison for the rest of his life for a crime that no one involved in the arrest or prosecution believed he had committed. defendants almost never win these cases, guilt or innocence is irrelevant. undoing it is next to impossible and normal remedies for criminal convictions don't apply.
our only remedy was an absolute pardon from the governor which we had to file three weeks before mike's civil commitment hearing. didn't look good. pardon investigations usually take months. we had weeks. we still had no dna. governor mcauliffe was a clinton democrat who hadn't been interested in criminal justice reform. mike was a convicted sex offender with substance abuse problems, a history of indecent exposure, and a history of poor adjustment during his brief stint on parole and denied a pardon by another democratic governor and the rules say you can't file two petitions. so we were in a bind. but it quickly became clear that things had changed between 2003 and 2015. we filed our petition jointly with the elected prosecutor in
richmond whom we had convinced of mike's innocence. we had several legislatures on our side from both parties. we also got to work hand in hand with the investigator for the parole board and dur eventually confessed to her that he committed the crime. so on may 13th, 2015, a few days before mike's civil hearing the governor granted the pardon. [ applause ] his first call was from governor mcauliffe who apologized to him on behalf of virginia and welcomed him home. thanks to the governor, mike got transitional funds and legislative compensation for his time in prison and today he's with his family for the first time in decades. and i focused on this case today because i think it makes clear why the innocence movement was so necessary, how far the movement has come, but also how far it has to go. there's no question in my mind
without the innocence movement's ability to free hundreds of innocent people based on dna, no one would have understood an eyewitness could have made a mistake in mike's case. we wouldn't have been working jointly with the prosecutor if it hadn't been for that work, and we wouldn't have been in a universe where it was politically palatable and in this case, even politically necessary for the governor to do the right thing. what's also clear is we need to keep fighting to make the system itself more just. there's been progress. in 1992, zero states allowed for post-conviction dna testing or best practices for i.d. witness procedures. today, all 50 allow dna testing and 15 require best practices in witness i.d. cases. ten states compensated the wrongfully convicted back then, and 30 do today. and we're having real conversations about other
problems in the system, like race and over criminalization that were made possible because people are now aware that the system is not perfect. but the work is not done. it's not clear to me that the outcome of mike's trial would have been different today. because we don't require a better i.d. procedures in enough places. mike was in prison for far too long because of a system that prized finality over justice. and didn't allow for cases like his to be corrected. that was just as true in 1986 as it is in 2016. mike was released in spite of the system. and because of an extraordinary confluence of public officials and a reporter who came together to do the right thing. but with different public officials, i fear that mike would probably still be in prison. so my message here today is a positive one. that the conversation about wrongful convictions has changed
because the innocence movement's work freeing innocent people and advocating for systemic change has helped it get there but it's also a call to action. i hope you will join me in working to create a more just system that not only convicts fewer innocent people, but can correct them. before people are forced to spend decades of their lives in prison. the past 24 years have shown it's possible, and with the help of the people in this room, i want to help finish that job. thank you very much. [ applause ] >> thank you, shawn. now i have a special surprise for you. karen friedman is the long-time policy director executive vice president of the pension rights center, but she's also a stand-up comedian. that's pretty rare in the public interest world. dealing with these thieving
corporate pension people, you've got to have some sort of comic outlet at the end of the day, i think, and she for 25 years, karen has been fighting for consumers, retirees and particularly low and moderate wage folks who either shut out from pensions or literally had their pensions taken from them. i think of that song woody guthrie had about outlaws had a verse "through this world i travel i have seen lots of funny men some will rob you with a six gun and one with a fountain pen." it's the fountain pens doing the serious stealing in our society today, but luckily, we have karen friedman on our side standing up against these corporate thieves. karen friedman. [ applause ] >> well, hello, everybody. how are you doing today? you know, i wanted to go back to something jim said earlier about
naked versus nekked, and by that definition, i certainly want to be nekke drk. what do you think? today i will talk about the naked truth. i'm so happy to be here on the opening day of breaking through power. it's an amazing event, right. first i want to thank ralph nader and all the hard-working staff from the center of the study of responsive law who put this together. this is a really impressive event. so i'm here today to tell you about how the pension rights center has been breaking through power for 40 years and how it's paid off and ralph, before talked about rumbling, we have to do some rumbling here today. so what is the pension rights center? make sure these are working. hello. there it is. great. so we're a national consumer rights organization that's been
working since 1976 to promote and protect retirement security for workers, retirees and their families. we have a vision that when people leave the work force, they have enough money to pay their bills, pay their medical expenses and continue to be productive citizens. guess what, guys, if people have adequate income they're likely to be able to continue fighting for justice throughout their lives. so, the pension rights center really hasn't changed in our 40 years, but the challenges in some of our strategies have and that's what i'm talking about today. the pension rights center was started 40 years ago by the amazing pension attorney karen ferguson when the visionary ralph nader said, karen, go make pensions an issue, and here's a check to do it. karen ferguson is actually still
working today. she's still the director. been working for 40 years. so i'm karen friedman and the executive vice president, i'm known as karen number two, and when people talk about the pension rights center they typically talk about karens. we've been working roughly 25 out of the 40 years and i have a passion for pensions and i hope you will too by the time i finish this speech. so, many of you in this room, may have seen the new movie out, "superman batman dawn of justice" which is actually a pretty awful film, but the reason i bring it up is because we in this country are obsessed with superheroes who fly in, conquer evil, and solve our problems. but here's the truth, folks.
there's never one person who does everything. leaders inspiring, but all of us are needed in the fight. so i'm here to say today that we are the super women, we are the super men who together can solve this country's problems. after this conference, i propose we write and produce our own movie "superactivists, dawn of justice, how ordinary people save the world" and that could be part of ralph's civil justice academy awards. what do you think about that? that is exactly what this conference is about. right now, i'm going to tell you how the pension rights center with a strong mission, a small budget, but tons of passion, has helped change laws and regulations and even in some cases we have changed how both companies and pension plans operate. so why was the pension rights
center started? so put on your time travel glasses, and let's fly back to the year 1976. that was the year disco music was filling the air waves, president carter was elected president, and to put it all in perspective, angelina jolie was still in diapers. most importantly, at least from our perspective, it was two years after the passage of the new federal private pension law, the employee retirement pension act, which protects the reasonable pension expectations of workers and retirees. the landmark law erisa was developed by a bipartisan congress and signed into law by republican president gerald ford, and was called by the republican senator, senator javitz, one of the lead sponsors, one of the most important pieces of social legislation since social security. before erisa, tens of thousands
of people were losing their pensions every day, because there were few laws regulating pension plans, and companies could do pretty much whatever they wanted. they could require people to work until retirement age to get their pensions and then fire them two days before their 65th birthday, bye-bye pensions. employers could invest the money in those days in bogus casinos in vegas, facing no consequences. and if a company in those days, this is prior to 1974, went brur bankrupt, workers could lose everything. so erisa created basic standards to protect pension promises, including a pension insurance program to protect people in bankruptcy, developing investment and funding rules, and setting minimum rules on how long people needed to work to earn the right to a pensions but like all laws that are duked out between different parties and stakeholders, erisa wasn't perfect.
there were many gaps, and congress could not envision all the problems that could occur. so step in the pension rights center. the pension rights center from the earliest days helped people understand their rights under the law, and we began hearing from people as soon as we started who were left out of the law. in overtime we documented those issues. there were widows and divorced spouses who learned they weren't eligible to get their husbands' pensions even if they had been married for decades. there were corporate raiders, some of you may remember carl icahn of 1980s fame who found ways of looting so-called surplus pension assets to finance takeover schemes. there were folks who worked nine nine years and eight months but lost their jobs before the ten years they needed to earn the right to a pension.
so to solve these and other problems, the pension rights center did what we now consider our stock in trade. we did it then, we do it now. we identified and documented problems. we used our technical know-how to develop workable solutions and we mobilized affected citizens and women's organizations, labor unions, retiree groups in coalition for the passage of laws. we were and consider ourselves now to be the great catalyst for retirement income reform. so over our history, the pension rights center, and i won't go through all of these, we were instrumental in passing six federal laws, in helping to implement numerous regulations, to expand benefits and rights for widows, divorced spouses, low-income earners, short service workers to stop pension raiding and help create a legal help network.
but this is what i really want to talk about today. what are the strategies for change? how did we pass these laws? i want to start by saying you have to have the facts and the know-how, but you also need to get creative, especially when you're small and underresourced, which i think every organization you're hearing from today is. so i thought i would share a few stories of how we got laws passed in our first few decades. back in the 1980s, we got the widows and sports left out on the phil donohue show, which ipthose days was the hottest talk show and generated all kinds of buzz. we used the power of these stories to get to congress for instance, we arranged for pat tice to testify before the ways
and means committee about how women would lose their spouses' pensions if their husbands died at the wrong time. she came and she talked in this soft voice and she said i came today because i thought i could be helped by the legislation to protect widows. but it's too late for me. my husband died this morning. i showed up today to help others. could you imagine this? you could have heard a pin drop. suffice it to say congress soon passed the retirement ecwouequi equity act. we delivered cookies to all key members of congress to say stop companies from stealing from the corporate cookie jar, and one of my favorites when ibm tried to cut its older workers benefits, they flew a blimp saying ibm stole my pension, is yours safe? and faced with a bad pr campaign, ibm actually changed its practice for a lot of those
employees, and congress ended up changing the law. so when you think about social change, think facts, think solutions, but think creativity. today especially in this media-saturated market, it's more important than ever. so now let's move to the present time and see what we're doing now. as you can imagine, 40 years later, the retirement landscape has changed and there are more challenges than ever. at $16.5 trillion -- sorry about that. i just went the wrong way. okay. >> at $16.5 trillion, pensions are one of the world's largest sources of private capital. and we as taxpayers subsidize the private system of pensions and 401(k)s to the tune of $132 billion, so you're all sitting here, and you're listening to us, and you're saying, with that
much money in the pension system, it must be doing a great job for people, right? well, it isn't. policymakers talk incessantly about the budget deficit in this country there's little talk about a huge and growing retirement income deficit, which is now standing at $7.7 trillion. $7.7 trillion, the retirement income deficit, which was calculated by the center for retirement research at boston college, is the gap between what people have saved as of today and what they should have saved as of today to meet their basic retirement needs. so what has caused this retirement deficit? about half the private workforce has no pensions or saving to supplement social security, which is averaging about $16,000 a year for the average retiree, and less for low-income workers and women. employers are dropping, cutting
back or freezing good old-fashioned pension plans which promote a specific benefit at retirement in favor of 401(k) plans, which really haven't cracked it for most americans. in fact, half of all households with 401(k) plans only have $59,000 accumulated in their accounts. for people approaching retirement, it's closer to $103,000, which isn't enough to make it through retirement. and consider this. for all households, not just those with retirement accounts, they have saved about $2,500. $2,500. it's worse for workers of color. now, the national opinion polls reflect america's anxiety. a recent gallup poll shows americans are more worried about not having money for retirement than any other economic issue, including paying for health care, their mortgage, or their kids' education. so the pension rights center is working every day to try to
develop solutions to address this retirement income deficit and protect against broken pension promises. to address the lack of pension coverage in this country, the pension rights center has called for a new national universal secure and adequate pension system on top of social security. we strongly support the expansion of social security. we're also working for new creative solutions both at the state and national level. we also ensure that retirees and workers already earned pensions are protected. we're seeing new trends every day where consulting firms advise corporations on how to cut pensions and other benefits by taking advantage of loopholes in the law. by offloading pensions to insurance companies and we're even seeing things in recent
years where nonprofit hospitals with a loose connection with, say, a church or synagogue, have worked to convert their federally protected pension plans into unprotected church plans. endangering the pensions of millions of workers and retire s retirees. on this last issue, because of the research done by the pension rights center, there's now 12 lawsuits, many of which have been decided in workers and retirees' favor. i'm going to spend the last part of my speech talking about two victories in 2016 where the pension rights center and our allies stood up to power, and we won. this is really important. the winning parts. these are all of our activists. this is about winning, guys. lots of people now say, karen, come on, it's impossible to have victories now in this divided congress. well, with grass-roots support
and enough stakeholders we believe certain legislative victories even today are possible. we have seen also great things happen, guys, in the regulatory arena. we had two big successes this year that i wanted to share with you. the first is about stopping predatory practices in the financial advice industry. the pension rights centering and allies such as aarp, joined together in a coalition called save our retirement, to stand up against the multimillion dollar lobby at the financial industry, and we won a great victory for american consumers. for the last five years, brokers of financial institutions fought vigorously to stop the department of labor from releasing a common-ground rule that insures that brokers and financial advisers who give advice on your retirement account have to do so in your
interest, not only to line their pockets. pretty reasonable, right? this conflicted advice was costing american consumers $17 billion a year. but of course, the industry fought this because they were making big bucks off giving conflicting advice. but here's the thing, we fought the industry and won. h how? by coordinating technical comments, meeting with editorial boards, educating policymakers, doing twitter campaigns and being persistent. the battle isn't over because of course the financial industry is still lobbying congress to try to weaken the law. they're threatening lawsuits, the whole thing, but we're confident we can overcome because this is the right result. another huge victory for retirees and the pension rights center in 2016 was to protect 270,000 retired truck drivers
and workers in the central states pension plan who faced pension cuts, ready for this, 40% to 70% because of a terrible law passed at the end days of 2014. you guys probably don't even know about this. congress in the dead of the night, end of 2014, attacked a bill called the multiemployer pension reform act to an end-year spending bill that allowed certain underfunded pension plans to slash the benefits of retirees in order to fix underfunded plans. this was unprecedented and torpedoed the most fundamental protections of erisa. suddenly, retirees who had done everything right, had given up wages, vacation pay, in exchange for a lifetime pension, learned these unbreakable pensions that they earned were about to be broken and their lives devastated. we knew that these cuts had to be stopped, so working with thousands of truck driver, spouses and widows, and
warehouse workers and others but certain unions at aarp, we developed a campaign to both change the law and also to influence the treasury department which was given the authority to review these cuts. we used the tactics i talked about earlier, the tactics that we have always used, but updated. we analyzed the law planning the summaries at our website with thousands of retirees contacted us, we helped them to provide them with information, and they put it on their own facebook pages, and guess what. now all these retirees have organized themselves into 60 powerful committees in 30 states. in april, the retirees themselves organized a rally outside the capitol with 2,000 retirees spouses and widows to reject the central safe application and for congress to pass a bill to repeal the bill passed in 2014 and stop these cuts. and in an amazing victory for
consumers, the treasury department, after receiving thousands of comments from retirees, the pension rights centers, labor, retiree advocates, rejected the application for sound legal reason. so while congress passed the law on 2014 behind closed doors that failed retirees, the regulatory process protected them, this is democracy at work. [ applause ] and now, and now we and the retirees are pushing to repeal of the terrible 2014 bill, and we're pushing for a bill that was actually introduced called the keep our pension promises act by senator sanders and congresswoman marcy kaptur from stopping these cuts. but this is the thing that's really -- that i really think is critical for this conference. the thousands of former truck drivers are now effective
citizen activists. this is what they do every day. they e-mail me 100 times a day. they have become the best lobbyists i have ever seen. they have inspired the pension rights center to work even harder. i want to say, remember my story about pat tice from 1984? well, 32 years later, rita lewis, a widow from ohio, testified before the senate finance committee and she changed the hearts and minds. rita, whose late husband butch was injured in vietnam and then drove a truck for 40 years, testified how 40% proposed cuts to her survivor's pension would force her to sell her house and stop her from taking care of her dad, who had stage iv cancer. she was so effective, again, you could hear a pin drop. her testimony was called the most powerful that members had heard in the committee and led to a commitment for senators of
both parties to work toward bipartisan legislation. and the democrats also all wrote a letter asking for a bill. so this is democracy in action, guys. i want to end by saying this -- go back to my first point. we are the supermen, we are the superwomen of the citizen action movement. so please join with the pension rights center in a larger movement for retirement security for all, for today's and future retirees, to protect pensions made to people in all pension plans, protect and increase social security, work with us to repeal the multiemployer pension reform act, work with us to help create a universal secure and adequate pension system for all people, and let's keep fighting. thank you very, very much.
[ applause ] >> thank you, super woman. great job. a guy i have known for 40 years, we both started in the public interest movement, roughly at the same time, the 1970s. he stuck with it while i fell off into the sinful world of politics, but he has been a giant in the public interest world. so michael jacobson is the head of the center for science in the public interests, where he's done health advocacy, his nutrition newsletter is 700,000 subscribers to it, engaged in all sorts of obesity fights. he has taken on coke and kellogg and all the rest of them. he drives an absolutely crazy, of course, that's a pretty short ride for a number of them, if you think about it, but he takes -- he does it through education, legislation, litigation, agitation, too. you have to remember that the
agitator is the center post in the washing machine that gets the dirt out. we need more agitators in our country and michael jacobson is one of the best. michael jacobson. >> thanks very much. congratulations to ralph nader for organizing this nice party. i came to washington, volunteered with ralph nader. my first day on the job, i sit around with ralph and a few of his aides, and ralph says, okay. what are we going to do with this guy? he has a ph.d. from m.i.t.? is that a good enough imitation, ralph? one of the people sitting there was jim turner, who just that week was publishing a book
called "chemical feast" about the food and drug administration. and it's various failures and inadequacies. and ralph said, okay, jacobson, why don't you write a book about food attitudes? i had just coming out of grad school. studying a virus. i knew nothing about writing books, no idea about even what a food additive was. and i said, well, okay, guys. i'd be glad to do it, but how do you write a book and what's a food additive? they said just go and do it. it seemed like everybody on his staff was writing a book that year. so i scurry to the library i put looked up what a food additive was, and i don't think there was a book on how do you write a book, but i put my nose to the grindstone. and wrote that book, which was novel back then because there were other books on food atat e
ati additives, but it's like they came out of the 1930s or something. the authors have to prove that every food additive was dangerous, and they clearly aren't. i wrote what i thought was an intellectualy honest book. my conclusion was that food additives like the sodium nitrite and artificial flavorings weren't nearly as big a problem as the foods themselves, all the sugar and the fat and the salt. as my grandmother would say, all that in the foods. so i wrote the book eater's digest. and meanwhile, i met two other scientists working with ralph. jim sullivan and alfrich, and you'll hear al frich talk this
afternoon. and we besided to split off and start our own organization, the center for science and the public interest. we had no connections, no money. and somehow, though, it worked out. al is a priest, so he had free rent from the church, and jim and i lived in group houses. we managed okay. we gradually wrote books and articles and pamphlets. got little grants that kept us going. as the previous speaker, karen, mentioned the idea of using mass media, and the media was so different then than now. phil donohue, who might be on this program later in the week, was just an angel in inviting public interest people onto his show. and letting them advertise their products, their memberships or newsletters.
and we had posters back then on food additives and nutrition. and we would be on his show and sell thousands and thousands of posters. and newspaper columnists would write articles saying, talking about the issue and then saying, get this pamphlet for $1.50 or whatever. and we would sell thousands and thousands. another speaker in the series breaking through power wrote a column about one of the things we wrote. and we literally had mail sacks of orders for the publication sitting outside our front door. so we lived on that sort of a thing. then we started nutrition action health letter as a giveaway newsletter for nutritionists who are somewhat progressive. and then after a year, we
decided we couldn't afford to give it away for free anymore, so we started charging, and gradually built that up into a real powerhouse of a newsletter, the largest circulation health newsletter in the country now with about 700,000 subscribers. and that's been the basis of our existence. we've been so fortunate, because we are lousy grant getters, but we write a pretty good newsletter. subscribers and some of the subscribers donate extra money. that's been the back bone of our financial support. and it's really satisfying to have it under our control rather than under the -- rather than having to beg foundations all the time. but if any of you are here, we would love to have your money also. and you get a free newsletter subscription if you donate. so now we have 700,000
subscribers, and income up about $15 million a year, much of which goes to the post office and the printer. but as i was thinking, you saw ra ralph's slide of executive salaries. $15 million is what the president of coca-cola got last year. that was after a 40% pay cut. he was making $25 million, but he's down to $15 million. the president of pepsi make a cool $26 million. but getting back to the substance, one of my conclusions from the book was that, writing the book was that nutrition is more important than the food additives. so they're significant and very interesting, and we've kept working on those ever since. back then, the mantra of the nutrition establishment, the department of agriculture, the
american diatettic association, the food industry, and others was a very convenient self-serving all food is good food, just eat a variety of foods and you'll be okay. so when i began looking into this and i really knew almost nothing about nurtition, i began looking into it, and that clearly wasn't the case. there was a shift going on from some professors, the american heart association a little bit, recognizing that the saturated fat and cholesterol and salt and some other things in food were major causes of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes. and there was controversy, but the whole conversation was shifting. as it shifted in many other
fields you'll hear during the conference series. from deficiencies of micronutrients to excesses in our food, and that's what we have been working on ever since to try to improve the quality of the american diet. partly by educating the public, which i think is essential, but more by focusing on the kind of garbage that companies were producing and that the government was defending. i remember one debate i had. we used to give out a memorial award given to the biggest junk food producer of the year. and we would give it out at the convention of the institute of food technologists who are the people who create all this junk. and so i'm outside the convention, the award was a beat-up old garbage can.
i said the garbage can, npr is interviewing me and i'm saying, all processed food is junk food. as only a very committed young man can say with such fervor, and so right after i'm doing the interview, somebody from general foods rushes up to the npr reporter and says, it's not true. it's not true. the reporter gives him the microphone and says, well, tell us about the foods, good healthy foods that general foods is marketing. and he says, well, well, we're working on one right now. i think made it very easy to win the debate. a couple years later i had the idea that too much salt was harmful, because there's a lot of evidence, even back in the 1970s, so a young woman just
started work for us, bonnie leaveman, 1977, and i said, bonnie, let's write a petition to the food and drug administration about salt. and that the government should limit sodium levels in food, put warning labels on canisters of salt and a couple other things. back then, salt, and now salt is considered generally recognized as safe. companies could use as much as they want. so bonnie and i and georgetown law school wrote the petition. we've been working on salt ever since. the government has done virtually nothing on salt, researchers have been busy discovering that if we could cut sodium from salt and other food additives by 50%, that could save as many as 100,000 lives a year, and