Give Responsible Student Loan Borrowers a Chance

Student loan borrowers are trying to do the responsible thing by paying off their loans but are being punished with high interest rates.

When you take out a mortgage or car loan, you can refinance the loan to get a better interest rate. With student loans, however, you’re stuck with the interest rate set by Congress, even though that rate is high enough to produce massive profit beyond the costs of operating the student loan program. And that’s just not fair.

The student loan refinance bill, sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), would allow 25 million student loan borrowers to refinance the interest rates of their student loans, and those extra savings will go a long way in this economy where unemployment is still too high and wages aren’t rising fast enough.

The Senate this week is poised to take a vote on Warren’s student loan bill (S. 2432). Unfortunately, the last time the bill came up for a vote, Senate Republicans chose to stand with their wealthy campaign contributors over tens of millions of students and their families.

Thankfully, Senate Republicans will have one more chance to change their minds.

Call your senators today at 1-855-712-9375 and tell them to pass S. 2432 so student loan borrowers will no longer be punished with high interest rates. 

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Students Call on The North Face and REI to Protect the Workers It Profits From

Members of United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) and interns from Union Summer took action at a Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) store in Rockville, Md., last weekend to protest the retailer’s association with The North Face, a company that uses sweatshop labor in Bangladesh to produce its products. Nearly 2,000 workers in the factories in Bangladesh that North Face and other companies use have died in recent years because of unsafe workplace conditions. Watch the video to see the students in action.

Of particular note is an exchange in the middle of the video between one of the students and an REI employee who asks what the protests are about. She responds eloquently: “When you do business with people that disenfranchise people worldwide, then what does that say about your brand?”


Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Something Cool is Happening at T-Mobile Memphis Store and It’s Not a New Data Plan

Last week students from the University of Memphis Progressive Student Alliance, United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) Local 68, courageously took over a local T-Mobile store to deliver a holiday message to the company. Watch these brave students as they face down the vicious management reaction and peacefully deliver their holiday message.

After you watch the video, please share it.

In the fall semester, USAS started a national campaign to support T-Mobile workers’ organizing. There are more than 25,000 T-Mobile workers across the United States who currently face high-stress working environments, arbitrary management, yelling and abuse and a brutal ongoing company campaign to prevent workers from joining together to seek changes at work.

Students were appalled to learn that many universities have deep commercial ties to T-Mobile through purchasing, service and infrastructure contracts, making their schools important corporate clients. Outraged that the universities would continue to give money to an abusive employer, they have taken action to demand that several universities cut their contracts with T-Mobile. Now they are speaking out to tell T-Mobile to respect its workers.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW.  Teresa Casertano contributed to this post.

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Meet Three Students Who Are Making a Difference

More students are graduating and entering the workforce than at any time since the baby boomers—but, for workers under 35, the unemployment rate is more than twice what it is for older workers. It’s a really serious challenge.

While many students use up every dollar and every hour to get a degree, tuition is increasing, wages are staying stagnant, and workers’ rights are disappearing, even as corporations make record profits.

That’s why we’ve launched the new Working America Student Workers Coalition. We want to provide students the opportunity to act collectively on issues related to economic equality for students and workers. Through this new coalition, students will learn valuable skills from professional organizers, learn about their rights in the workplace, and build a bigger, more diverse, and more inclusive labor movement.

In Denver, three student leaders are working to make this project a reality. Here’s what they had to say.

Erica Beegle
I have never had a problem finding work, but all of my jobs have been low paying, high turnover, no benefits, and most often been in the service industry. I’ve been the victim of wage theft; I’ve been paid below minimum wage; I’ve regularly had unreasonable scheduling demands, including long shifts with no breaks.
I know this is exceedingly common in food service. Employers often view workers like us as disposable. With so many people having experience in the industry, and a poor economy, employers will always be able to find someone who is willing to put up with their exploitation. I know this is not the only industry this happens in. In any low wage job, the attitude is similar. I know how hard it is to keep faith in a better future while struggling.
I’m really excited to be a part of the Working America Student Workers Coalition, so I can learn about the rights workers have and spread the word to others. I’m excited to learn organizing skills and gain leadership experience while focusing on issues that really matter to me: the minimum wage, wage theft, disrespect, sexism and racism in the workforce, and economic inequality. Right now is a particularly important time to get involved; our generation has an opportunity to change these outdated systems and attitudes. It is my hope that through our group, we all become more empowered workers, organizers and leaders—and that we can share those skills with all who will listen.

Chris Faller
I moved to Colorado seven years ago from England. Prior to moving to this country I was a union organizer—a branch worker for the social services in Manchester, with UNISON; then as a temporary worker’s union rep, with PCS. Since coming to the U.S., it’s been hard to do this kind of work for represent worker’s rights. Seven years is a long time to feel politically isolated and inactive. I teach part-time at a community college, as an Adjunct, here in Colorado, and I’ve seen real hostility to worker organizing—including people losing their jobs. A colleague from my Masters of Social Work (MSW) program invited me to help set up the Working America Student Workers Coalition.

At last, I have a chance to renew what feels like my calling—to work with young like-minded people, who are working part-time or full-time to put themselves through college. At last, I have a chance to advocate on their behalf and help others share their stories of low employment status, oppressive working hours and/or conditions, low wages and a feeling that they don’t have rights on the job. These issues unite virtually every student—here in Colorado and on the global stage.

I’m excited that this coalition is here to provide leadership, support, advocacy, community organization, and a way to impact legislation. I want to take this effort from Colorado and fight for student workers—and all workers—across the country.

I no longer feel politically isolated. I am working with like-minded individuals who continually inspire me in their dedication to workers, their sense of humanity and equality; their leadership and willingness to put others before themselves; in their aspirations and vision for a better future for workers; and, of course, their drive to build the Working America Student Workers Coalition.

Edgar Acosta
We face troubling times as students, saddled with debt and uncertainty of the job market after we graduate. The Working America Student Workers Coalition is an opportunity for great minds to come together and build a much-needed student movement. I’m glad I was given this opportunity to gain experience in the labor movement and share it with other students. I didn’t imagine that we could get this far in such little time and build a student club that focuses on workers’ rights and other issues affecting students. Our officers and members have diverse and backgrounds and a wide range of skills—it’s a great foundation for advocating for students’ and workers’ rights. I hope we can educate our fellow students, train leaders and foster an informed, engaged student worker base. I want to see students be prepared to take action and understand that there really is power in numbers!

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