Senator Menendez knows that it is a critical time for our economy right now. While the job market is slowly recovering from the deepest recession since World War II, we still have a long way to go. And we cannot move forward without securing our nation’s foundation. That’s because fostering an economy built to last in the 21st Century requires a state of the art infrastructure.
As Americans face unemployment, depressed wages, and increased consumer debt, it is important that we take bold steps to spur job creation throughout our nation. That is why we must continue to enhance and invest in human capital and ensure that there is never a shortage of quality jobs. From protecting unemployment benefits to ensuring equal pay, Senator Menendez realizes the importance of strengthening our working class and securing our long-term prosperity.
- Unemployment Benefits. Fought to increase unemployment insurance benefits for hard-working Americans who have lost their job in this recession through no fault of their own. He ensured that unemployed workers in New Jersey during the height of the economic slowdown would receive up to 99 weeks of benefits, the highest in the nation, because he believes unemployment insurance is a fundamental tool to assist American workers through their most difficult times. With consumer spending accounting for 70% of economic activity, providing a life raft for families struggling to remain afloat during these rough economic waters is not only socially responsible, it is an economic necessity as every dollar paid in benefits generates $1.64 in economic activity.
- Ensuring Livable Wages. Helped lead the fight to increase the minimum wage in order to give working families the opportunity to get out of poverty and into the middle class. This is especially important in states like New Jersey that have one of the highest costs of living in the nation.
- Empowering Workers. Supported the rights of workers to organize and bargain for better pay and working conditions. He believes we must level the playing field between large corporations and average workers, which is why he has consistently supported the Employee Free Choice Act. This important piece of legislation would require employers to honor the choice of their employees, and prevent intimidation and abuse.
- Equal pay for equal work. Co-sponsored The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which helps end pay discrimination and was enacted into law in 2009. The law closes a loophole that made it easier for unscrupulous employers to get away with discriminating based on a worker’s gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or disability. Menendez also supports the Paycheck Fairness Act, which aims to rectify the gender wage gap by increasing penalties for gender discrimination in the work place.
- Colombia Free Trade Agreement. Voted against the Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) because violence and threats of violence against labor leaders in Colombia continues unabated. Before voting against the Colombia FTA, Sen. Menendez helped lead the effort to increase accountability by seeking inclusion of the Colombia Labor Action Plan in the text of the Agreement. Although the Plan ultimately was not included in the FTA, Menendez and other members have compelled the Administration to provide quarterly briefings on the implementation and enforcement of the Labor Action Plan, and Sen. Menendez is continuing to monitor Colombia’s adherence to the Plan and the commitments they made on internal legal reforms of the labor code; the protection of unionists from violence and abuse; and the prosecution of crimes against trade unions and union leaders. This monitoring will be even more important when the FTA goes into effect on May 15, 2012.
- Supported Trade Adjustment Assistance. Joined his Democratic colleagues in insisting that protections be extended for workers hurt by international trade before he would even consider new FTAs. He supported the extension of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act (TAA), which provides assistance and job training to workers who lost their jobs as a result of international trade. He also voted against several amendments that were intended to weaken protections, including several that would have made fewer workers eligible for assistance. Sen. Menendez believes that if government is going to implement FTAs, it has a responsibility to protect those hurt by its policies.
- Maintaining Davis-Bacon Protections. Supports maintaining the Davis-Bacon Act, which ensures workers are paid prevailing wages for all government projects. He voted against a Republican amendment to eliminate this fundamental, middle class protection.
- Training Workers for the Jobs of Today. Working to create a program that will help train the long-term unemployed to fill the 3 million jobs that are available today. Many businesses are looking for skilled workers to fill openings now, but unfortunately, those looking for jobs don’t always have the skills needed to compete for these positions. Sen. Menendez’s proposal would create public-private partnerships that provide tax incentives to local colleges and training programs to help develop the training programs needed, as well provide incentives for employers to train and hire long-term unemployed workers.
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