Labor unions oppose Puerto Rico debt-relief bill

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Seven of the nation’s largest labor unions on Friday urged House lawmakers to oppose a bill aimed at helping Puerto Rico restructure its $72 billion in debt.

The broad range of unions, including the AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the United Auto Workers Union (UAW), said that the reworked fiscal measure would hurt workers on the island.  

{mosads}In a letter to House lawmakers, the unions wrote that the bill “provides no economic stimulus, and in fact takes money out of the economy by reducing the minimum wage and overtime protections” for the more than 50,000 union members they represent in Puerto Rico. 

They urged Congress to “get back to work immediately to provide real solutions that allow Puerto Rico to negotiate a feasible debt restructuring plan, protects Puerto Rican workers and retirees, and provides economic stimulus so that the territory may achieve economic growth.”

A markup of the reworked bill, which has bipartisan support on Capitol Hill and from the White House, will start Tuesday evening with opening statements. The panel will move to the bill on Wednesday morning, the House Natural Resources Committee announced on Friday.

The legislation would establish an outside control board to oversee Puerto Rico’s finances while allowing the debt restructuring through the courts.

“The people of Puerto Rico face an urgent humanitarian and fiscal crisis brought on by more than a decade of recession, excessive debt and Wall Street demands for austerity,” the unions wrote.

“Any restructuring package must also protect the accrued pension benefits of Puerto Rican workers and retirees, retain worker protections that apply to all working people in the U.S. including minimum wage and overtime protections, and preserve the democratic rights of the people of Puerto Rico,” they wrote.

The measure is backed by the White House, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

The bill was repeatedly delayed as negotiators worked out issues raised by both parties and the White House.

Tags AFL-CIO Nancy Pelosi Paul Ryan Puerto Rico SEIU UAW

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