President Obama opened up his State of the Union address by recognizing everyday workers – educators, entrepreneurs, autoworkers, and farmers. The President reminded Congress and the rest of our country that investing in our nation’s working class will yield a higher rate of return and stimulate our economy. Creating good paying jobs means so much more than a paycheck, it affords members of our society the opportunity to become consumers, investors, and even entrepreneurs that can help create more jobs moving forward.
“Job creation to engage the full American workforce allows everybody to take ownership in the American Dream, which he described as a dream to study, invent, and contribute to our culture,” said Johanna Puno Hester, APALA National President. "We applaud President Obama’s plan to sign an executive order that demands federal contractors begin investing in their employees with a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour, an increase from the current minimum at $7.25. This is a big step forward for our working class brothers and sisters, but we must continue to ensure that good jobs are available and accessible for everybody.”
Obama’s announcement was a victory for the estimated 200,000 low wage workers, including security guards, cleaners, and food service workers in federal buildings. While many APA workers in those industries will begin to immediately benefit from this, many other APA workers are still not being paid a living wage and the fight for worker justice has just begun. Too many workers are barely getting by and consequently have few opportunities to get ahead. APALA will continue to advocate for the entire working class by pressuring Congress to pass legislation that includes raising the minimum wage for all workers.
Many vulnerable APA families are still suffering from unemployment, and in many cases longterm unemployment. As a result, cuts to unemployment insurance are drastic for struggling families who depend on these safety net funds to make ends meet. In times of unemployment hardship, President Obama’s support is critical as he urges Congress to stop letting unemployment insurance expire for 1.6 million jobless workers. We must take action to extend unemployment insurance and promote President Obama’s efforts to create more jobs that give these disenfranchised workers the chance they deserve to get back on their feet.
President Obama also restated his support to fix our broken immigration system where 11 million aspiring Americans still do not have a pathway to citizenship. Embracing the 11 million aspiring Americans and including them as part of the economy is an investment that will ensure a prosperous America. The emphasis on investing in our nation’s workers, youth, and immigrants reflect the importance of job creation, a living wage, and common sense immigration reform that cannot be overlooked.
President Obama continues to be a strong proponent of utilizing education as a tool for American advancement by finding innovative ways to invest in students and education. Incorporating such measures as his Race to the Top initiative, emphasis on the importance of early childhood education, and call for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) exemplify why education has become a strategic priority. President Obama believes that an educated labor pool with skills to enhance the American workforce will strengthen the middle class and grow the economy exponentially. Upward mobility will soon be on the rise again and new ladders for advancement opportunities will grow as students will be able to achieve their full academic potential.
"President Obama reaffirmed his commitment to advance worker, immigrant and civil rights during his State of the Union address,“ said Gregory Cendana, APALA Executive Director. “APALA welcomes President Obama’s focus on the key issues affecting our community. We will uphold our nation’s priorities under President Obama’s leadership as we embrace 2014 as a year of action and progress.”