Western Massachusetts Area Labor Federation Calls On President Biden to Cancel All Student Debt

Springfield, MA — The Western Massachusetts Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, a coalition of more than 60 public and private sector unions from across Western Massachusetts, voted unanimously Monday night to pass a resolution calling on President Joe Biden to cancel all student debt by executive order immediately. 

Citing statistics that 55% of Massachusetts residents have student loan debt, with an average amount being $33,256, the resolution also called on Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, Representatives Jim McGovern and Richard Neal of Massachusetts’ 1st and 2nd Congressional District, Governor Charlie Baker, and other elected officials at the state and municipal level to urge Biden to cancel all student debt, which he has the power to do under the Higher Education Act of 1965.

“This is an issue that affects 44 million Americans, and canceling student debt is very popular nationally. Especially as we continue to navigate the myriad of challenges brought on by the pandemic, canceling student debt will provide relief and invigorate the household budgets of millions of working people across the country,” said Lydia Wood, executive director of WMALF. “Student debt is an economic burden weighing families down for generations,” pointing to the fact that one-fifth of those responsible for paying off a student loan debt are older than fifty, and that older Americans can have their Social Security garnished for falling behind on making payments. Wood added, “For decades we have touted higher education as a path to the middle-class, but that path is increasingly becoming a debt trap, impacting everything from working families’ ability to buy a home, start a family, to pursuing particular careers. We need President Biden to act now to forgive student loans jumpstart our economy, and free millions of Americans from a lifelong burden of debt.” 

Lastly, the resolution called on the Massachusetts state and the national offices of the AFL-CIO, all affiliate unions, and all other labor organizations in the US to pressure Biden to sign an executive order immediately canceling student debt. 

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Resolution

Whereas, the Western Massachusetts Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO is “dedicated to building power and a better world for all working people” by advocating and organizing “for economic, racial, and intersecting systems of justice for all marginalized communities”, and;1

Whereas, 55% of Massachusetts residents have student loan debt, with the average student loan debt for Massachusetts residents being $33,256, and;2

Whereas, student loan debt cuts across all levels of education, and affects borrowers who attend vocational school, technical school, beautician schools, two-year associate degree programs, four-year undergraduate programs, graduate school, state schools, community college, private colleges and universities, and for-profit schools, as well as people who began a program of further education but did not finish, and;

Whereas, across the country, women, and Black women in particular, are disproportionately affected by the two trillion dollar crisis of student loan debt, and;3

Whereas, twenty years after taking out student loans, the average white borrower has paid off 94% of their student loan debt while the average Black borrower still owes 95% of their student loan debt,4

Whereas, “research estimates that canceling student debt would boost the national economy by up to one hundred and eight billion dollars a year and create a million jobs”, and;5

Whereas, more than forty four million Americans currently owe some amount of student debt6, and of that number, only thirty two individual borrowers have ever had their student loan debt forgiven in the past twenty five years of student loan forgiveness programs,7 and;

Whereas, “one in five people responsible for paying off a student loan is over the age of 50”, and “older Americans can be subject to Social Security garnishment if they fall behind on their debt”8, and;

Whereas, education is a right that should be accessible to all and not a commodity that should anchor families with debt for generations, and;

Whereas, the Higher Education Act of 1965 gives the president of the United States the power to cancel all student loan debt by executive order, and;

Therefore, now be it resolved that the Western Mass Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO calls on President Joe Biden to cancel all student loan debt immediately by signing an executive order, which he can do using the Compromise and Settlement powers of the Department of Education.9

Be it further resolved that the Western Mass Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO calls on Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey and Representatives Jim McGovern and Richard Neal and Governor Charlie Baker and state representatives, state senators, mayors, city and town councilors, and school board officials in Western Massachusetts to tell President Joe Biden to cancel all student loan debt immediately by signing an executive order.

Be it further resolved that the Western Mass Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO calls on the Massachusetts State and National offices of the AFL-CIO, all affiliate unions and all other labor organizations in the United States to tell President Joe Biden to cancel all student loan debt immediately by signing an executive order.

1 “About Us,” Western Mass Area Labor Federation, https://wmalf.org/about-us

2 Jami Farkas, “A Look at Americans’ Student Loan Debt by State,” Yahoo Finance, June 27, 2021, https://www.yahoo.com/now/look-americans-student-loan-debt-190000412.html

3 Abigail Higgins, “Women Hold Two-Thirds of Student Debt: These Activists Say They’ll Strike If Biden Doesn’t Cancel It,” The Lily, published by The Washington Post, January 7, 2022, https://www.thelily.com/women-hold-two-thirds-of-student-debt-these-acti... strike-if-biden-doesnt-cancel-it/

4 Lee, Barbara. Twitter Post. January 5, 2022, 11:12 AM. https://twitter.com/RepBarbaraLee/status/1478761234132578311

5 The Intercept “Your Debt Is Someone Else’s Asset,” YouTube video, 05:32, posted December 9, 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bhn3jsBHKg4

6 “The Political Case For Student Debt Cancellation,” Freedom to Prosper, https:// www.freedomtoprosper.org/the-political-case-for-student-debt-cancellation/

7 Lauren Frias, “Only 32 Student Loan Borrowers - Ever - Have Qualified For Full Forgiveness Through An Income Driven Repayment Plan” Insider, March 10, 2021, https:// www.businessinsider.com/32-people-qualified-full-forgiveness-federal-inc... repayment-2021-3

8 “Truths About Student Debt Holders,” Freedom To Prosper, https:// www.freedomtoprosper.org/truths-about-student-debt-holders/

9 Laura Hanna and Ann Larson, “A Memo On The Legal Mechanism For Cancelling Student Loan Debt,” April 19, 2019, The Power Report, https://powerreport.debtcollective.org/ 2019/04/28/legalmemo/