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April 26, 2019

Politico: Q and A with Ayanna Pressley

I caught up with Rep. Ayanna Pressley earlier this week to talk about her new bill that would address inequalities in the workplace; impeachment; and the 2020 race. Our conversation was edited for length and clarity.

You’ve introduced the BE HEARD in the Workplace Act with Rep. Katherine Clark. How did that come about and why is it so important to you?

“Sen. Patty Murray and Katherine Clark were working on this together and Congresswoman Clark extended an opportunity for me to join in and I enthusiastically said yes. I see it in so many ways as a furthering and a continuation of the work that I did on the City Council, so to have the opportunity to do that work on the federal level with these incredible partners, and to do it in a bicameral fashion, and to offer something that is more inclusive and really unprecedented.

I’m grateful for the renewed focus and elevated consciousness on issues related to sexual harassment and violence and workplace discrimination thanks to #MeToo and Time’s Up and Enough is Enough. But the forward face of those movements is not representative of every worker. This legislation is. Not only is it unprecedented in how inclusive it is, but in the reforms that are offered. The fact that we’re eliminating mandatory arbitration and nondisclosure agreements, expanding the statute of limitations to four years, to name a few.”

What is the largest impact this bill would have for working women?

“At the height of the #MeToo moment, I was regularly asked by activists and reporters if I could share an example, as a woman, my own #MeToo moment, and I could not come up with one. That’s not because it hasn’t happened. It is because it’s just a conflated part of our experience and our identity as women in the world. I think a lot of times we just chalk these things up to culture, in the same way we do racism or misogyny, and culture can be changed because all culture is, is human behavior. So this is an opportunity to change human behavior, to change workplace culture and also to empower workers across every industry and agency to know their rights and to strengthen their pathways to healing and to justice if they are victims.We’re being more bold in our dialogue and now we need to be even bolder in our legislating.”

Now that the Mueller report has been released, where’s your thinking on impeachment?

“I’ve always said that it was on the table. And now I have signed onto the resolution that was offered by Rep. Green and Rep. Tlaib to initiate impeachment proceedings. I do believe what is un-redacted in the Mueller report provides sufficient grounds on obstruction of justice, witness tampering, trying to suppress the independent investigation from happening at all. There’s so much that’s been happening in the light of day that it gives us great pause about what is happening in the dark. And if the formal grounds for impeachment were based on moral crimes then we would have initiated these proceedings a long time ago, because that list is too long to cite. And I understand the pause. This is a decision we must enter into soberingly, and that you feel a great sadness about. This is about the presidency, and I think it’s easy to make it just about who’s there now, but this is precedent-setting. If we’re going to all this administration to operate at this level of lawlessness, what are we saying about this office? What are we saying about the future? Ultimately, history will judge us by this moment.”

There are a number of presidential candidates who want your endorsement. What are you thinking about when you look at the 2020 field taking shape, and what are you looking for in a candidate?

“My initial response is just a sense of pride. Look at the candidates our party is putting forward. I think it is really emblematic of the big tent that we say we are. We’re seeing that play out in the diversity, the historic and unprecedented diversity in this field of candidates and I’m really celebrating that. I think primaries are healthy, they’re the bread and butter of presidential elections. I’m like anyone else — I’m enjoying watching the forums and the debates and policy positions as they are rolled out. I’m going to continue to do that. I’m 100 days in this new role at a time where the country is at a defining crossroads. I am head-down learning and doing my job. There will be plenty of time for endorsements, but that is not anything happening in short order on my side. I look forward to hearing more about the vision from these candidates and specifically how it will benefit people the people that I represent in the Massachusetts 7th.”

Do you think that decision will come in the fall?

“I have no idea. Just like any voter, this decision is deeply personal and it’s visceral. There’s not an exhaustive calculation. When I feel so moved, that’s when I’ll act.”