Before the Whistleblower, Civil, & Human Rights Summit
Monday, May 21, 2012
Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 226
Friends and Patriots, thank you all for coming here today to discuss whistleblower, civil, and human rights. I welcome you all. But, I want to pay special recognition to the whistleblowers here today that have come forward to expose wrongdoing, waste, fraud, and abuse. These courageous whistleblowers have risked their careers, livelihoods, and personal well-being. I thank all whistleblowers and those who support their cause.
You've gathered here in Washington from across the United States to promote, celebrate, and educate Congress about the courage and patriotism of whistleblowers. Welcome.
In regards to the folks here today with the USDA Coalition of Minority Employees, I want to say thank you for all you do to push for change.
I've been working with you for many years to bring about improvements in how USDA handles discrimination claims.
The Coalition played a crucial role in raising awareness of some of the difficulties facing USDA employees who filed complaints.
I'm proud to stand with you and demand USDA officials ensure there is a process for employees to have their discrimination claims heard in a fair and timely manner.
And our work hasn't gone unnoticed. But we haven't finished our work.
I'm going to continue my oversight of USDA until I am satisfied they have a system in place to properly handle discrimination and retaliation claims.
The dean of Whistleblowers, Ernie Fitzgerald once said that the only crime whistleblowers commit is that they "commit truth." For it, they're as welcome as a skunk at a picnic. Today's event highlights the uphill struggle that whistleblowers overcome. I commend each and every whistleblower that, like Ernie, fights to make sure that the truth is heard.
It's a tremendous honor to stand before such a diverse coalition of individual whistleblowers, friends, and other supporters.
Today's event provides a forum to discuss a number of important bills pending before Congress that will strengthen and expand existing whistleblower protection laws. I am proud to report that one important bill, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, which I have cosponsored with Senator Akaka, recently passed the Senate by unanimous consent.
This legislation makes a number of important changes to the Whistleblower Protection Act for Federal employees. It overturns a number of court decisions and rulings of the Merit Systems Protection Board that have limited whistleblower rights. It clarifies court jurisdiction and appeals of whistleblower cases.