June 22, 2022

Union Leaders to President Biden: Cancelling Student Debt is Critical to Help Millions of Working People

Link to Video (Youtube)

Washington, D.C. – Today, United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) joined the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and union leaders for a roundtable discussion on the importance of student debt cancellation for American workers. During the roundtable, the lawmakers and union leaders discussed how cancelling student loan debt will help millions of hardworking Americans, narrow the racial wealth gap among borrowers, and provide financial relief for millions of workers around the country. The lawmakers and AFL-CIO were joined by President Liz Shuler (AFL-CIO), President Randi Weingarten (AFT); President Becky Pringle (NEA); President Lee Saunders (AFSCME); President Sara Nelson (AFA-CWA); President Marc Perrone (UFCW); and President Ray Curry (UAW).

“As the presidents of seven of our nation's largest unions said today: student debt cancellation would change the lives of working families across the country. These unions represent millions of workers, from educators to food workers to auto industry workers to flight attendants and many more. And they reflect the reality that it’s working Americans that are being crushed by student debt – and would see immediate relief from meaningful cancellation. I’m grateful to be in this fight with America’s unions, and for their leadership on this critical issue,” said Senator Warren.

“The student debt crisis is chaining millions of Americans to a life of debt and sinking billions from our economy every year,” said Senator Schumer. “Canceling student loan debt would provide American workers with a new lease on life and free them to achieve their dreams of buying a house, saving for their kids’ education, or starting small businesses, and unleash a wave of economic activity missing from our country. The Administration must act to relieve millions of Americans of the anchor of student debt.”

“Student debt cancellation has always been a kitchen table issue for workers and families in my district and all across the country,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “It was great to join my partners Senator Warren, Leader Schumer, and our siblings in the labor movement to discuss how student debt cancellation will support union families and promote a just and equitable economic recovery. President Biden has a historic opportunity and obligation to deliver this critical relief and he must not miss the moment.”

"Forgiving student debt would provide much-needed economic relief for millions - especially borrowers of color," said AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler. "After all that working people have endured in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot ask them to make further sacrifices. The Biden administration must provide borrowers with meaningful student debt relief as soon as possible."

“Canceling up to $50,000 of student debt is the only just and moral response to our nation’s student debt crisis, and it would be a game-changer economically for educators, nurses, public employees and other working people who face enormous economic challenges as a result of their debt burden. We have told this generation higher education is vital, yet have asked them to shoulder the burden of college tuition themselves, undermining, in the process, their faith in American higher education as an engine of economic mobility. Eliminating their student debt is not only smart policy—it’s smart politics,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten.

“For decades, we have struggled with a student loan crisis that holds back our economy and crushes the dreams of millions of Americans. This heavy debt burden causes loan defaults and drives up balances; delays marriages and the start of families; and makes it impossible to save for retirement, college funds, or even emergencies. To confront the student debt crisis, NEA has long advocated for broad student debt cancellation of at least $50,000 that is not means-tested. The Biden Administration should exercise its executive authority to provide much-needed relief for America’s families,” said NEA President Becky Pringle.

“Addressing the student debt crisis is essential to solving the inequality problem in our country. Working families are confronting a tidal wave of student debt and barely keeping their heads above water. It impacts their ability to pay the monthly bills. It keeps them from starting a business or buying a home. And it undermines their retirement security," said AFSCME President Lee Saunders. "Many AFSCME members live with this anxiety every day. They work in public service – as nurses, librarians, sanitation workers, corrections officers and so much more. They could earn more money if they had taken a different career path. But they have chosen to dedicate their working lives to strengthening their communities. In many cases, they have taken on student debt so they could get the skills and credentials they need to be better at serving their neighbors. They deserve relief.”

"Like millions of other Americans, Flight Attendants' dreams are kept on the runway by the weight of student debt. We hear from members who have put off dreams like buying a home and starting a family because of debt that never seems to go down no matter what they pay. The banks are getting rich off the backs of everyday people who can’t spend their earnings on goods and services that would support millions of jobs. This debt is holding individuals and our entire economy. We need a fair shot at a good life, not a debt sentence. We call on President Biden to use his authority to cancel student debt and give Americans the runway to lift off," said Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants - CWA.

“Through the entirety of the pandemic, UFCW members risked their lives to serve as essential workers while the burden of student debt and out-of-control college costs continuously hung over them,” said Marc Perrone, President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. ”Our hard-working members and their families, who come from all walks of life, are the ones who are disproportionately affected by this student debt crisis. Whether it’s the community college student running a cash register, the drug store technician aspiring to become a pharmacist, or the meat processing worker whose children took loans to achieve the American dream – the working and middle class families who make up UFCW prove that student loan relief is about providing a better life to those who have earned and deserve it the most.”

“Educational debt, when compounded by interest, becomes a millstone that compels recent graduates to prioritize the needs of financial institutions over those of their families. This is simply unacceptable and must change.  To his credit, President Biden has canceled more student loan debt than any president in U.S. history. Due to the depth of the crisis more relief is needed.  That is why I am pleased to join Senator Warren, Senate Majority Leader Schumer, Representative Pressley, and fellow union leaders to urge President Biden to take sweeping action to eliminate more federal student debt.  Student debt forgiveness would enable UAW academic student employees, postdoctoral scholars, and academic researchers pursue their dream of higher education without fearing how they will plan for the future,” said UAW President Ray Curry.