Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Amazon, Starbucks Unions Join Coalition Pushing Biden to Go Big on Student Debt Relief

"We're fighting for economic justice both inside and outside of the workplace, and canceling student loan debt is a necessary part of that."

The Amazon Labor Union and Starbucks Workers United on Monday joined a growing coalition of unions and progressive advocacy groups that is pushing President Joe Biden to go big on student debt relief.

"This is a working people's issue."

While White House officials have been considering a plan to cancel $10,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower for individuals earning less than $150,000 a year, the labor movement is trying to persuade Biden to wipe away much more and eschew means-testing.

"We're fighting for economic justice both inside and outside of the workplace, and canceling student loan debt is a necessary part of that," a spokesperson for Starbucks Workers United told Politico. "So many young people across the country cannot afford to pay rent and buy groceries in the same week, let alone pay thousands of dollars in student loan debt."

Starbucks Workers United, which has won more than 100 union elections nationwide since December, and Amazon Labor Union, which recently organized the first successful union drive at an Amazon workplace in U.S. history, are the newest members of a broad coalition of progressive groups that has been advocating since the start of Biden's presidency for a minimum of $50,000 in student debt cancellation per borrower and preferably a total jubilee.

As of Monday, 552 organizations, including more than 70 unions, have endorsed the Student Borrower Protection Center's public campaign urging Biden "to strengthen the economy, tackle racial disparities, and provide much-needed relief to help all Americans weather the pandemic and record inflation by using executive authority to cancel federal student debt immediately."

As Politico reported:

Some labor groups, especially teachers' unions, were already vocal proponents of widespread debt relief. But the issue is now attracting support from a far broader swath of organized labor.

The AFL-CIO announced last month its support for canceling student debt. So too have traditionally blue-collar unions, such as United Auto Workers, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and United Food & Commercial Workers, which all signed a letter last month urging Biden to cancel student debt "immediately."

The broad union backing may provide Biden with some political cover and help counter concerns, even from some Democrats, that student debt cancellation will be perceived as elitist by voters who never attended college.

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