Americans United Dubs U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett Middle Class New Jersey’s ‘Public Enemy #1’
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Jeremy Funk, (202) 263-4576
March 6th, 2007
Americans United for Change Dubs U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett Middle Class New Jersey's ‘Public Enemy #1'
- Voted against raising the minimum wage for the first time in a decade
- Voted against leveling the playing field for middle class workers by restoring their freedom to choose unions
- Voted against making college more affordable for middle class by slashing student loan interest rates in half
- Put the special interests first - triple check
Washington D.C. - In response to his repeated assault on the middle class agenda in the 110th session of the U.S. House of Representatives, Americans United for Change today dubbed U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett (NJ-5) middle class New Jersey's new ‘public enemy #1.' Specifically, Americans United took issue with Rep. Garrett's votes against: 1) H.R.2, the Fair Minimum Wage Act which would raise the federal minimum wage for the first time since 1997 from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour over two years; 2) H.R. 800, the Employee Free Choice Act, which would level the playing field for middle class workers by fixing a badly broken system for forming unions and bargaining with big business and Corporate America for better pay and improved benefits; and 3) H.R. 5, the College Student Relief Act of 2007, which would slash the interest rates on subsidized student loans in half from the current 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent. All three bills passed in the U.S. House with bipartisan support, and Americans United for Change, the non-profit advocacy organization perhaps best known for leading the fight to beat back President Bush's disastrous proposal to privatize Social Security in 2005, is now urging Members of the U.S. Senate to do the right thing and move each element of the middle class agenda to the President's desk.
"More and more of America's working people are struggling to make ends meet, and our middle class is disappearing," said Jeremy Funk, spokesman for Americans United for Change. "Three meaningful pieces of legislation to reverse this trend have already come before Congress this year - and, unfortunately, Congressman Scott Garrett was no where to be found when middle class families in New Jersey needed him most. Just last week, Rep. Garrett opposed the Employee Free Choice Act, which would give middle-class workers a fair shake by fixing a badly broken system for forming unions and bargaining with Corporate America for better pay, improved benefits and retirement security. Earlier this year, Rep. Garrett stood adamantly opposed to the first increase in the federal minimum wage in a decade. He couldn't even be counted on to stand up for the most vulnerable workers in his state who live in borderline poverty. A week later, Garrett opposed legislation to make college more affordable for middle class students by slashing student loan interest rates in half. It's a question of priorities and a question of values - and it's clear that the Congressman has lost touch with the values of middle class New Jersey families, whom overwhelmingly support all three of these important initiatives. Until Rep. Garrett gets his priorities straight in Washington and stops pandering to the special interests at the expense of working people, we will continue to identify him as middle class New Jersey's ‘public enemy #1.'"
Why middle class workers support the Employee Free Choice Act:
- The Employee Free Choice Act would: 1) strengthen penalties for companies that illegally coerce or intimidate employees in a effort to prevent them from forming a union; 2) bring in a neutral third party to settle a contract when a company and a newly certified union cannot agree on a contract after three months of negotiations; 3) establish 'majority sign up', meaning that if a majority of the employees sign union authorization cards, validated by the National Labor Relations Board, a company must recognize the union.
- It would level the playing field in a system that's stacked entirely in employers' favor - a system that routinely lets corrupt employers' get away with harassment, intimidation, coercion and even dismissal of workers who try to organize unions. See this report from American Rights At Work exposing the shocking reality of routine company union-busting intimidation tactics in the workplace.
- The Employee Free Choice Act is overwhelmingly supported by 69 percent of American public, according to a recent poll from the AFL-CIO. More than half of U.S. workers - nearly 60 million - say they would join a union right now if they could.
- Workers who belong to a union earn 30 percent more than nonunion workers. Union workers are 62 percent more likely to have employer-provided health coverage and four times more likely to have pensions than nonunion workers.
Why middle class families support the Fair Minimum Wage Act:
- The minimum wage has not been increased in nearly a decade, making this the longest span without a minimum wage increase since the wage was first implemented.
- Adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage is at its lowest level in 50 years.
- 83 percent of Americans support an increase in the federal minimum wage.
- Workers earning the minimum wage will only make $10,700 over the next year, $4,367 under the poverty threshold for a family of three. 3
- Nearly 13 million people would likely benefit from the increase - 5.6 million directly and 7.4 million indirectly.
- See this report from the Center for American Progress debunking the myth that a minimum wage increase would hurt small businesses.
Why middle class students support the College Student Relief Act of 2007:
- 88 percent of the American public overwhelmingly supports reducing student loan interest rates
- Tuition costs are rising far faster than inflation while real wages have been stagnant. The average cost of tuition at a public college has increased 42 percent, but median household income has fallen 2 percent. Federal assistance to students and parents has been shrinking and states have been cutting back institutional support.
- Congress recently raised interest rates on student loans and cut $12 billion from the Federal Student Aid program.
- The maximum Pell Grant Award is worth less, in real dollars, than it was 30 years ago.
- In July 2006, interest rates increased from a variable rate that was set at 5.3% to a fixed rate of 6.8%.
- Each year, the cost of higher education translates into 400,000 qualified students not going on to four-year colleges.
- High debt affects student's ability to go into low paying public service jobs such as teaching and social work.