(Washington, D.C.)—Bobby L. Harnage, National President of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), issued today’s statement following the passing of Representative Patsy Mink (D-Hawaii):
“With heartfelt sadness, the members of AFGE join the people of Hawaii—and all who believe in justice and equity—in mourning the passing of Representative Patsy Mink.
“From the start, Congresswoman Mink never let the unfair status quo get in the way of beating the odds. When all the medical schools she applied to rejected her, she went to law school. In 1953, she was admitted to the Hawaii bar—no small achievement for any woman at that time, never mind one of Asian descent.
“In 1964, she became the first Asian-American woman elected to Congress, and all of us owe her a debt of gratitude for her willingness to run against the wind. For with her election, the working people of America gained a true, straight-talking friend in Congress.
“Rep. Mink had a 100 percent voting record with AFGE in 2001, supporting the right of Department of Defense employees to compete in defense of their own jobs and the federalizing of airport screeners. She supported legislation to safeguard ergonomic standards, provide programs to benefit low-income families and communities, help airlines workers who lost their jobs in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, and reform of the federal campaign finance process that would maximize the influence of working Americans.
“She opposed fast track legislation, excessive tax cuts—skewed largely towards corporations and the wealthy—and opposed a Patients’ Bill of Rights that failed to make health care providers accountable to all Americans. Most recently, she battled measures that would strip homeland security workers of their union rights, risking political repercussions in order to do the right thing. Her vote in the House on the Homeland Security bill—a vote against bad legislation—was a gusty move.
“Among Congresswoman Mink’s greatest achievements was her co-authorship of Title IX of the Education Act, which changed the playing field for all of the nation’s female athletes. Today we see the results of Title IX in the popularity of women’s tennis, the creation of the WNBA, and on countless soccer fields across America. More than that, we see it every time any man or woman in our union wins a position that runs against type—a brother who is a nurse in the VA; a sister who works in the Border Patrol. Title IX is an example of a law whose impact was felt far beyond those whom it directly affected; it changed the national mindset.
“Patsy Mink was a visionary who believed in a world in which prejudice could be set aside, working people could earn a living wage, and politicians would represent their constituents without thinking of the consequences. She will be sorely missed.”