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ADA President Retiring From Congress

Posted by Will Rice (will) on Aug 05 2011 at 1:03 PM
ADA Today >>

By Jon Bernal

After two decades of public service to her Northern California constituents, Congresswoman, former co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and ADA President Lynn Woolsey is set to retire at the end of the 112th Congress in 2013.  Throughout her 20 years in Congress, she’s been an unwavering advocate for labor, education, children, families, marriage equality, expanding health care, and finding alternatives to military conflicts. 

Woolsey’s championing of human needs programs grew in part from her personal experience relying on public assistance while a working mother.  Often billing herself as the “first welfare mother to serve in Congress,”  Woolsey understood the personal and societal costs of cutting programs for the most vulnerable.  “I know what it’s like to need that safety net,” she said recently.  “I can’t imagine a more important function of government than to lend a helping hand to those who’ve fallen on hard times.”

While in Congress, Woolsey has tackled a wide variety of progressive causes including championing a pilot federal school-breakfast program in Santa Rosa, CA, which was eventually expanded under President Bill Clinton. Woolsey said of her successful effort:  “We have proven that children who start the day hungry have poorer grades, discipline and concentration; and that with the proper nutrition they are able to succeed in school and in life.”

Woolsey has also been a leader on issues of war and peace.  She was the first member of Congress to call for the removal of all U.S. troops in Iraq and was able to force a vote on removing them.  During the 2006 State of the Union address, Woolsey gave her gallery ticket to Cindy Sheehan, an Iraq War opponent.  Sheehan was ejected for wearing a shirt reading, “2,245 dead.  How many more?”

Since 2004, one of Woolsey’s top legislative priorities has been “The Balancing Act”, a collection of legislation that would give working families “more support (paid leave, access to better child care, afterschool programs, etc.) as they try to be the best employees and the best parents they can be.” On worker safety and health issues, Woolsey is pushing for the “Protecting America’s Workers Act”, which strengthens OSHA and brings workplace health and safety into the 21st century by increasing enforcement and penalties against unscrupulous employers.

Prior to winning a seat in the House of Representatives, Woolsey was a two-term member of the Petaluma City Council. Before that, she founded her own Human Resources consulting and employment firm, Woolsey Personal Services, while simultaneously attending school at the University of San Francisco. 

Woolsey was elected President of ADA in 2010. “I became involved with ADA because of its long and successful history as a champion of liberal values,” Woolsey recalled recently.

ADA National Director Michael J. Wilson released a statement at the announcement of Woolsey’s Congressional retirement which said in part: “[S]he has worked for economic and social justice, as well peaceful reconciliation whenever and wherever possible. That is why we asked her to be President of Americans for Democratic Action...She understands the connection between the government and the governed, and...the duty of informed citizens to be active participants in our democracy. We thank her for her service in Congress, and look forward to her continued service as President of Americans for Democratic Action.” [SEE AUTHOR BIO AND SUBJECT PHOTO BELOW]
ADA volunteer Jon Bernal has worked with labor unions and other progressive organizations over the past decade.

Jon Bernal is a consultant with ADA.