"Thanks to unions, working people have come a long way -- an eight-hour work day, pensions, safer job conditions and health benefits. I will continue to fight for worker rights. As a member of the House Committee on Education and Labor, I will continue to stand with you and I will fight for the right of every worker to join a union, free from fear and intimidation." -- Rush Holt
Rep. Holt has fought throughout his career on behalf of working families, to ensure that workers receive fair compensation, have the right to organize and bargain collectively, and are assured of strong workplace safety laws. He has worked hard to strengthen and expand the rights of all employees, both union and non-union workers.
In this section:
* Raising the Minimum Wage
* Defending the Right to Organize
* Investing in Job Training
* Extending Unemployment Benefits
* Equal Pay for Equal Work
* Ending Employment Discrimination
* Strengthening Apprenticeship Programs
Raising the Minimum Wage
Rep. Holt was a cosponsor and strong supporter of the Fair Minimum Wage Act -- signed into law by President Bush in May 2007 -- which incrementally raises the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour over two years. This raise for working families was long overdue, and it will benefit nearly 13 million people directly and will benefit all Americans by elevating those workers who are holding up so much of our society. The most recent increase occurred on July 24, 2008, when the minimum wage became $6.55. The minimum wage reached $7.25 on July 24, 2009.
Before the bill's passage, the federal minimum wage had remained $5.15 an hour -- a figure not enough to support a working family or even an individual. Rep. Holt believes that hard-working families and individuals should not be living in poverty, and he believes that broad-based economic growth is the best way to ensure that our economy is strong, sustainable, and taking advantage of the talents of the entire population.
Fact Sheet: Department of Labor: Minimum Wage
Defending the Right to Organize
Rep. Holt has a family history of strongly defending the right to organize and to bargain collectively. In fact, at his own political peril, Rep. Holt's father, a U.S. Senator from West Virginia, single-handedly filibustered legislation that would deny unionized West Virginia coal miners the protections they deserved. Rep. Holt is a co-sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act (H.R. 1409), which seeks to protect workers' right to organize by establishing "majority sign up" as a fair and legitimate means for establishing a bargaining unit. As a result, workers would have the tools to secure better wages, benefits, and treatment.
Rep. Holt has also supported legislation, the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act, which provides collective bargaining rights for public safety officers employed by states or local governments. He helped win approval of the bill in the Education and Labor Committee and its passage in the House in the 110 th Congress.
Legislation: Employer Free Choice Act
Investing in Job Training
Rep. Holt believes that we must stand by hard-working Americans who have fallen upon difficult times during the current downturn. That is why he supports programs to train people so that they can succeed in today's increasingly competitive workforce.
In order to remain competitive in the global economy of the 21st Century, workers must have access to professional development and job training programs that equip them with the skills that they need. Creating and maintaining good jobs in America is more of a challenge than ever before, which is why Rep. Holt supports full funding for job training programs. This will help displaced workers gain the new skills they need to compete in the new global marketplace, and provide our local economy with a well-qualified, highly productive workforce.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes almost $4 billion for job training, including increased funding for grants for adult, dislocated worker, and youth job training. New Jersey has been awarded $33 million for dislocated worker job training, $21 million for youth job training, and $9.3 million for adult job training.
Additionally, Rep. Holt has introduced the Online Job Training Act of 2009, H.R. 145, which would bolster the availability of home-based training programs as part of the Workforce Investment Act by awarding grants to states to establish or improve workforce training programs on the Internet. This legislation would make job training more accessible and convenient for prospective workers.
Fact Sheet: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: Investing in the Workforce
Extending Unemployment Benefits
Rush Holt has supported efforts to extend unemployment benefits -- most recently as part of the recovery bill, which extends the program through December 2009 - for the millions of Americans who are looking for work and who have exhausted their regular unemployment benefits. This will help an additional 3.5 million jobless workers nationwide, including 147,897 New Jerseyans. During challenging economic times, the federal government often has extended unemployment benefits. Doing so not only provides relief to those currently unemployed, but it also helps stimulate the economy. According to chief economist Mark Zandi of Moody's Economy, every dollar in unemployment benefits creates at least $1.63 in economic activity.
The recovery bill also increases unemployment benefits for 20 million jobless workers by $25 per week, including an estimated 730,943 New Jerseyans. And it temporarily suspends the taxation of some unemployment benefits.
Need Assistance? NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development | Unemployment Insurance
Equal pay for Equal Work
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, working women performing the same work as men earned only 77 cents on the dollar. Working women should receive equal pay for equal work. Rep. Holt is a cosponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 1338), which would strengthen enforcement of prohibitions against discrimination and increase penalties for infractions. He worked to win approval of the bill in the Education and Labor Committee and on the House floor.
In January 2009, Rep. Holt supported The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to respond to the Ledbetter v. Goodyear ruling of the Supreme Court, which fundamentally weakened fair pay and employment protections that employees enjoyed for over 40 years since passage of the Civil Rights Act. The Supreme Court's ruling in Ledbetter v. Goodyear set a precedent that employees only are entitled to protection from wage discrimination if they can discover that they are being treated unfairly and take legal action to correct it within 180 days. The legislation will clarify that every paycheck or other compensation resulting from an earlier discriminatory pay decision constitutes a violation of the Civil Rights Act.
Ending Employment Discrimination
Rush Holt opposes employment discrimination based on genetics or disability. As a member of the House Committee on Education and Labor, Rep. Holt helped win approval of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which was signed into law on May 21, 2008. This new law will prohibit health insurance and employment discrimination against individuals and their family members on the basis of genetic information. Rep. Holt also was a cosponsor and helped win Congressional approval of the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2007, which was signed into law on September 25, 2008. The law will restore protections for disabled Americans under the ADA and allow the ADA to reclaim its place among our nation's most important civil rights laws.
Strengthening Apprenticeship Programs
The apprenticeship and training programs that are run by qualified local unions are second to none. However, some in Washington are trying to create loopholes in the apprenticeship and training certification process to allow private companies to offer apprenticeship certification without maintaining the high standards that union programs have. Rep. Holt will continue to defend the high standards that union programs deliver.