Doesn't All Work Deserve Dignity?

Apr 29, 2014Lydia Bowers

A subway ad provides a reminder of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's second bill of rights, which called for a living wage and access to leisure.

A subway ad provides a reminder of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's second bill of rights, which called for a living wage and access to leisure.

I recently saw an advertisement for Grubhub on the New York City subway. For the unfamiliar, Grubhub is a food delivery website used to place orders online. Grubhub focuses its ads on creative reasons you should order delivery tonight from “You refer to your oven as Manhattan Mini Storage” to “Your friends in the Midwest share photos of their kids. You share photos of dinner”. Grubhub has purchased enough ad space in the NYC subway system to make their ads fixtures of NYC commutes.

This ad was different. “Sure, you could go out for dinner. And walk in the snow. Uphill. Both ways. Someone else can do it for you! Order In. You Deserve It.” The case for why you should order delivery tonight is still there (it’s cold, it's uphill!) but there’s more. Pay someone else to deal with that unpleasantness, you deserve it! In our new society, where 1% of the population controls more wealth than the bottom 80% combined, dignity comes from money and, more importantly, what that money can pay others to do for you.

Am I making too much of one ad? Possibly – but it’s emblematic of widespread and growing issues. Look at recent examples of fast food restaurants underpaying their employees or denying them benefits while concurrently paying CEOs obese incomes. Look at Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe being sued by their employees for colluding to keep wages low and maximize corporate profits. The idea that a fair day's work equals a fair day's pay is eroding at every level of our society, except for those controlling it all at the very top. We have become a society where we are sorted into those who deserve fair pay, benefits, and empathy, and those who don’t. And at the end of a long day, the deserving few deserve to have someone being paid exploitative wages (the average delivery worker in NYC is paid minimum wage at $8.00 an hour or roughly $15,300 a year) bring sushi to their front door.

Am I advocating the end of delivery? Of course not. What I’m asking for is a restoration of the basic social contract, where we agree as a society to value all our workers and their right to happiness. This is not a new idea. In his 1944 State of the Union address Franklin Delano Roosevelt advocated for a second bill of rights. He argued that the political rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights had “proved inadequate to assure us equality in the purist of happiness.” In this new version, Americans would have the right to employment with a living wage, housing and food, and clothing and leisure, among other things.

What an incredible concept. That beyond simply feeding and housing ourselves, Americans should have the right to leisure – to enjoyment and happiness. That while there will always be delivery people and fast food workers, we all deserve to pay rent off the earnings of a single full-time job. But this is not an issue only impacting minimum wage workers in America. The Apple collusion case referenced above and recent reports that the American middle class is no longer the richest in the world indicate a pervasive mindset has taken root in America, that only those at the very top deserve anything at all. The rest of us can fight for what they leave behind.

The solution? Restore the basic social contract and raise minimum wage. Rather than continuing to argue for the failed policies that wrongly argue equality trickles from the top down, acknowledge that wealth flows when we all do better. Raising our most vulnerable workers above the barely-scraping-by level of living betters our society as a whole, from both economic and social justice standpoints. The recent increase in the New York state minimum wage and political will at the national level for a federal increase are good first steps. But until politics prove otherwise, I will continue to overreact at billboards that reinforce the concept that any workers in our society are "undeserving."

Lydia Bowers is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network's National Operations Strategist.

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Daily Digest - April 29: Paul Ryan's Anti-Poverty Theater

Apr 29, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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The New Paul Ryan Is All About Heart (NY Mag)

Though Paul Ryan tries to portray himself as the Republican who cares about the poor, his policies cut funding from anti-poverty programs, writes Jonathan Chait.

Click here to receive the Daily Digest via email.

The New Paul Ryan Is All About Heart (NY Mag)

Though Paul Ryan tries to portray himself as the Republican who cares about the poor, his policies cut funding from anti-poverty programs, writes Jonathan Chait.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal points out that Ryan doesn't just cut funding from the poor; he buys into the fantasy that charity alone could solve poverty.

Trucking Used to Be a Ticket to the Middle Class. Now It’s Just Another Low-Wage Job. (WaPo)

Lydia DePillis explains how the (potentially illegal) reclassification of truck drivers as independent contractors has changed the industry. With all the costs shifting onto the drivers, earnings have dropped.

Hawaii Set to Become Third State to Hike Minimum Wage to $10.10 (MSNBC)

Hawaii will follow in the footsteps of Connecticut and Maryland, reports Ned Resnikoff. The state is also giving a big boost to its tipped workers, whose wages will be calculated by far more favorable rules.

The Adjunct Revolt: How Poor Professors Are Fighting Back (The Atlantic)

Elizabeth Segran looks at adjunct professor organizing, which has grown tremendously. It's not just about money; adjuncts complain that it is impossible for them to properly teach under this system.

The Real Reason Conservatives Oppose Renewing Unemployment Insurance (TNR)

Conservatives are asking for overwhelming proof that the long-term unemployed suffer without extended unemployment insurance, says Danny Vinik, because they just don't want to spend the money.

Get Rid of Job Killing Tax Extenders; Pay For the Rest (Working Economics)

Thomas L. Hungerford points out House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp's hypocrisy: he requires budget offsets for unemployment insurance, but not for more expensive tax breaks.

What Problem Is Privatizing Fannie and Freddie Meant to Solve? (HuffPo)

Dean Baker sees no reason to privatize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac right now, since they are performing well. But if we must, government should get out of mortgage-backed securities entirely.

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Daily Digest - April 24: Legal Challenges Are Changing the Intern Economy

Apr 24, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Colleges, Employers Rethink Internship Policies (WSJ)

Rachel Feintzeig and Melissa Korn report that while unpaid internship lawsuits work through the courts, many companies are changing their programs by adding pay or eliminating internships altogether.

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Colleges, Employers Rethink Internship Policies (WSJ)

Rachel Feintzeig and Melissa Korn report that while unpaid internship lawsuits work through the courts, many companies are changing their programs by adding pay or eliminating internships altogether.

Losing Their Unemployment Benefits Didn't Help These People Find Work (HuffPo)

Sam Stein and Arthur Delaney find that without long-term unemployment insurance, which Congress failed to extend in December, workers' job searches didn't change, but their ability to pay the bills did.

Your Government Owes You a Job (The Nation)

Raúl Carrillo calls for a job guarantee as a matter of justice and economic security for all. He says such a program would have similar costs to current anti-poverty programs, but provide more opportunities.

Here’s Why This City’s Businesses Love Its Paid Sick Days Law (ThinkProgress)

Bryce Covert looks at a new audit of Seattle's paid sick leave law, which went into effect in September 2012. People are happy: costs were lower than expected, and business, wage, and job growth were all up.

The Rich Live Longer: So How Much Money 'Buys' 1 More Year of Life? (The Atlantic)

Derek Thompson uses data on life expectancy and income to determine the cost of an extra year of life. He says the actual numbers here are less important than the fact that inequality has life-and-death costs.

Politicians from the Hungriest Counties Voted to Cut Food Stamps (MSNBC)

The congressmen, both Democrats, claim to have voted for the recent Farm Bill that cut food stamps in some states as a compromise on larger cuts, says Ned Resnikoff, but the GOP strategy will keep chipping away at the program.

F.C.C., in a Shift, Backs Fast Lanes for Web Traffic (NYT)

The Federal Communications Commission announced new proposed rules that allow companies to pay Internet service providers for faster access to their content, reports Edward Wyatt. Some call this the end of net neutrality.

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Daily Digest - April 22: Tax Reform Can Close the Gulf Between CEOs and Workers

Apr 22, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Raising Taxes on Corporations that Pay Their CEOs Royally and Treat Their Workers Like Serfs (Robert Reich)

Robert Reich explains a proposed bill in California that would incentivize lower executive pay by tying corporate tax rates to the ratio of CEO pay to typical workers' pay.

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Raising Taxes on Corporations that Pay Their CEOs Royally and Treat Their Workers Like Serfs (Robert Reich)

Robert Reich explains a proposed bill in California that would incentivize lower executive pay by tying corporate tax rates to the ratio of CEO pay to typical workers' pay.

Justice Stevens Suggests Solution for ‘Giant Step in the Wrong Direction’ (NYT)

Adam Liptak speaks with retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who is calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and allow reasonable limits on campaign finance.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Student Board of Advisors Chair Jeff Raines explains why McCutcheon v. FEC makes big money's power over politics even worse.

A Chance to Remake the Fed (TAP)

With two open slots on the Federal Reserve, David Dayen suggests that progressives should support regulators who will serve as Main Street's voice on monetary policy.

Union Will Keep Fighting To Organize Volkswagen Workers (ThinkProgress)

While the United Auto Workers have dropped their appeal of the recent failed union election in Chattanooga, TN, Bryce Covert reports that the union plans to continue organizing at that Volkswagen plant.

UConn Graduate Assistants First To Unionize In State (Hartford Courant)

Kathleen Megan reports that the graduate assistants will be represented by the Graduate Employee Union/United Auto Workers. Graduate assistants have organized on over 60 campuses across the country.

‘Jobs vs. the Environment’: How to Counter This Divisive Big Lie (The Nation)

Jeremy Brecher argues that a "Green New Deal" could put people to work rebuilding the country's infrastructure to protect the environment, ending the supposed conflict between environmental movements and labor.

Not Born Rich? Out of Luck (MSNBC)

Chris Hayes interviews Thomas Piketty about his new book, Capital in the 21st Century, and the trends that have led to rising concentration of wealth in the United States and around the world.

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Daily Digest - April 21: In Minimum Wage Fight, Localities May Have Maximum Impact

Apr 21, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Minimum Wage Debate Goes Local (San Francisco Chronicle)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Annette Bernhardt and Ken Jacobs consider why the minimum wage debate has such momentum at a local level. They see this as a return to states and cities being laboratories of policy innovation.

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Minimum Wage Debate Goes Local (San Francisco Chronicle)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Annette Bernhardt and Ken Jacobs consider why the minimum wage debate has such momentum at a local level. They see this as a return to states and cities being laboratories of policy innovation.

The Link Between One Website and Hate Crimes (Melissa Harris Perry)

In a discussion on domestic terror and hate, Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren suggests that the way we live, segregated by race and class, makes it even harder for Americans to embrace difference.

The Biggest Predictor of How Long You’ll Be Unemployed Is When You Lose Your Job (Five Thirty Eight)

Ben Casselman finds that the unemployment rate at the time when a worker loses her job is the strongest indicator of whether she will end up among the long-term unemployed.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal builds on this data to explain why the long-term unemployed aren't necessarily weak employees.

Student Debt Holds Back Many Would-Be Home Buyers (LA Times)

The share of first-time home buyers has dropped. Tim Logan ties that to the vast increase in student loans over the past decade, which hinders would-be buyers from getting mortgages.

How Payday Lenders Prey Upon the Poor — and the Courts Don’t Help (NYT)

Since AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, which limited class action lawsuits, people trapped in cycles of predatory payday lending have even fewer routes out, writes Emily Bazelon.

Beyond the Laffer Curve — The Case for Confiscatory Taxation (Vox)

Matt Yglesias notes that many of our taxes aim at changing behavior, not increasing revenue. Perhaps higher taxes on inheritances or very big salaries could discourage the economic activity that promotes inequality.

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Daily Digest - April 18: Inequality Was Not an Accident

Apr 18, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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We Built This Country on Inequality (The Nation)

Mychal Denzel Smith writes that the U.S. economy was built on a foundation of inequality for women and racial minorities, and that we must fight racism and sexism if we hope to close the wealth gap.

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We Built This Country on Inequality (The Nation)

Mychal Denzel Smith writes that the U.S. economy was built on a foundation of inequality for women and racial minorities, and that we must fight racism and sexism if we hope to close the wealth gap.

Oklahoma Governor Signs Law Barring Cities From Raising Minimum Wage (AJAM)

The Oklahoma law also bars cities from requiring paid sick leave or vacation time, reports Amel Ahmed. This seems intended to preempt a push for a state-level minimum wage increase, as in California and Maryland.

Treat Wage Theft as a Criminal Offense (WaPo)

Catherine Rampell asks why the consequences for stealing thousands from workers' paychecks are so much less severe than the consequences of stealing from someone's home.

Obamacare Succeeded for One Simple Reason: It's Horrible to be Uninsured (Vox)

Sarah Kliff says the eight million sign-ups are proof that insured pundits didn't understand how desperate the uninsured and underinsured were to get health insurance.

Antitrust in the New Gilded Age (Robert Reich)

Robert Reich suggests that today's concentrated wealth resembles the Gilded Age, right down to the need to break up too-large corporations. He cites the pending Comcast-Time Warner merger as a troubling example.

New on Next New Deal

Not Just the Long-Term Unemployed: Those Unemployed Zero Weeks Are Struggling to Find Jobs

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal looks at the data on those who move from one employer directly to another, without any unemployment. When even those workers struggle on the job market, wage growth slows.

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What Is Economic Growth Without Shared Prosperity?

Apr 14, 2014Joelle Gamble

It's time for the U.S. to recognize that policies to push economic growth must focus on average Americans, not "job creators."

It's time for the U.S. to recognize that policies to push economic growth must focus on average Americans, not "job creators."

Rampant inequality is putting the future of the American economy in peril. The financial recovery we have experienced the past few years has only led to massive gains for top earners and little to no change for average Americans. Decades of policies that throw more benefits to the top have not “trickled down” to the average household.

But more importantly, our current idea of economic progress is skewed. The wealthy have created this idea that “job creators” are a class of people who can magically restore out economy, ignoring the fact that entrepreneurship and innovation come from all economic statuses.

America needs to shift our economic narrative away from a heavy emphasis on GDP-based growth and toward a model that promotes prosperity for everyone. We need to think about how we generate demand in order to create jobs. This demand comes from average Americans having the ability to engage meaningfully in the economy, with fair wages without discrimination in the workplace. In short: economic progress must involve prosperity for all Americans, not just “job creators.”

Legislative battles at the local, state, and federal levels around equal pay and the minimum wage will prove crucial to changing our conception of what constitutes good economic policy. Victories in these fights represent tangible ways in which the average American worker can better his or her own economic prospects and simultaneously grow the economy.

We are seeing progress now. In January, the city of Seattle began pushing to raise the minimum wage for city workers to $15.00 per hour. Earlier this week, the state of Maryland voted to raise its minimum wage from the federal $7.25 to $10.10 per hour. Meanwhile, President Obama continues his push for federal action.

Meanwhile, in the United States, women make an average of $0.77 for every $1.00 earned by men, but growing movements are pushing the needle in the right direction. The President signed directives to clamp down on gender discrimination by federal agencies and contractors. Americans show strong bipartisan support for paid sick leave and family leave. Municipalities, are pushing through bills to make this support a reality –in New York City, Mayor De Blasio has already expanded the paid sick leave law that was established in 2013.

While the most sustainable and sweeping changes on these fronts may be best achieved at the federal level, many of the real policy battles are playing out in cities and states. This presents a real opportunity to involve a wide swath of Americans in economic justice work in their neighborhoods. If organizers on the ground build power to push a prosperity-centric policy agenda forward through both community building and new technology platforms, we can see a real shift in the narrative of what economic progress looks like in this nation.

Joelle Gamble is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network National Field Strategist.

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A Millennial’s Case for Fixing Social Security

Apr 11, 2014Brian Lamberta

Instead of giving up of Social Security, Millennials should push an easy fix for the so-called funding crisis: lifting the earnings cap.

Instead of giving up of Social Security, Millennials should push an easy fix for the so-called funding crisis: lifting the earnings cap.

As a public policy student, I’m used to hearing lively debates and diverse perspectives from my professors, fellows students, and course materials. There is one issue on which they consistently agree: apparently, Social Security cannot work for my generation. Polling data confirms this sentiment. Between half and three-quarters of Millennials do not expect Social Security to exist when we retire. Despite all of the rhetoric and doubts, I know that Social Security can work for Millennials – but it’s crucial that we fix the program.

I learned the importance of Social Security during my summer internship at The Alliance for Retired Americans, which was part of the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network’s Summer Academy program. I learned that Social Security is the primary source of income for most seniors. The internship also taught me all about the program and its current issues, inside and out.

To give some background, Social Security is the widest reaching public benefit program in the United States. Starting at age 62, almost all Americans are eligible to receive monthly checks based on the amount they or their spouse paid into the program during their working years, with the benefit amount increasing for those who delay taking payments. The benefits of Social Security for retirement must be earned – 12.4% of nearly everyone’s yearly income below an annually adjusted cap is taxed to fund the program. For 2014, the cap is set at $117,000. Any income above $117,000 is completely ignored, so a person earning $1,000,000 will pay a 2.2% tax rate in 2014 and person earning five-figures will pay a 12.4% rate. To put it another way, a millionaire finishes paying her Social Security taxes by mid-February (at the latest) while the average American pays those taxes all year long.

Currently, there is a funding gap, which is often overstated as a “crisis.” Based on the Social Security Administration’s own predictions, only about three-quarters of benefits can be paid after 2033. Poor planning regarding the retirement of the Baby Boomers did not cause this gap. In preparation for the retirement of the Baby Boomers, we amended Social Security during the 1970s and 1980s; their retirement is almost entirely funded. This lapse (“the crisis”) is directly linked to the unintended consequences of reforming the taxable earnings cap in the 1970s.

Since 1975, Congress has linked annual cap increases to the average growth in wages. Post-World War II wage growth has consistently favored higher earners, who already had total incomes above the cap. This led to two disturbing trends, the first of which is shown in this chart, taken directly from the Social Security Administration’s website:

 

 

As seen here, the cap used to reduce taxes for many more Americans, but since the 1970s it's leveled out from reducing taxes for the top 15% to helping just the top 6%, establishing its status as a tool for the mega-rich to avoid paying taxes. Since the wealthiest Americans have benefitted most from wage growth in recent years, the amount of income that is untaxable for Social Security purposes has increased from 10% to 17% since 1975. In essence, the funding gap is a result of an antiquated and poorly calculated tax break that allows the wealthiest Americans to avoid paying their fair share.  

Social Security can remain in perpetuity if we scrap the cap. Historically, regular adjustments have been applied to program to ensure its continued solvency, and this obvious change should be no different.

Millennials: I urge you look more deeply into this issue and better understand the facts as the debate continues. Most of the money that our grandparents use to pay their bills comes from Social Security, so simply letting the program crumble would have disastrous effects. As a generation, we are far less likely to have union-backed pensions and extra money for savings. Fixing Social Security could be more necessary for our generation’s retirement stability than any before us.

Brian Lamberta is an urban studies and public policy student at the CUNY Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College and currently serves as the Northeast Regional Communications Coordinator for the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network.

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Daily Digest - April 8: Equal Pay Still Isn't a Reality

Apr 8, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Why the GOP is Wrong About the Pay Gap (MSNBC)

With President Obama signing executive orders to fight the pay gap on Equal Pay Day, Irin Carmon lays out the shortcomings in the current system for fighting pay discrimination.

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Why the GOP is Wrong About the Pay Gap (MSNBC)

With President Obama signing executive orders to fight the pay gap on Equal Pay Day, Irin Carmon lays out the shortcomings in the current system for fighting pay discrimination.

Cities Advance Their Fight Against Rising Inequality (NYT)

Cities are working to fight inequality locally because they aren't willing to wait on the federal government, writes Annie Lowrey. Seattle, which is debating a $15-an-hour minimum wage, is a prime example.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute President and CEO Felicia Wong gave the closing remarks at Seattle's Income Inequality Symposium on March 27.

Maryland Set to Increase Its Minimum Wage to $10.10 by 2018 (WaPo)

Jenna Johnson reports on the final agreement on the minimum wage in the Maryland legislature. Maryland is the second state to take President Obama's advice and lead the charge for a $10.10 minimum wage.

Congress May Extend Corporate Tax Breaks But Not Unemployment Benefits (National Priorities Project)

Mattea Kramer points out a case of classic Washington illogic: Congress is preparing to extend corporate tax breaks worth $700 billion, but won't extend unemployment insurance because it would add $10 billion to the deficit.

GOP Grapples With The Unsettling Fear That Obamacare May Succeed (TPM)

Sahil Kapur says the 7 million Americans and potential voters who registered for insurance on the exchanges during open enrollment create a challenge for Republican candidates, whose base still supports repeal.

Yes, Rubio's Antipoverty Plan Would Cut Benefits to Working Parents (TNR)

Danny Vinik writes that it's mathematically impossible for Senator Rubio's plan to increase benefits for childless working adults and remain deficit-neutral, as his office has claimed it will, without reducing benefits to parents.

Workers on the Edge (TAP)

David Bensman looks at the difficulties faced by workers whose employers misclassify them as independent contractors. Employers do this to avoid paying workers' compensation, overtime, and even some taxes.

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Labor Law for All Workers: Empowering Workers to Challenge Corporate Decision Making

Apr 4, 2014Richard Kirsch

This is the sixth and last in a series of posts summarizing a new Roosevelt Institute report by Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch, entitled "The Future of Work in America: Policies to Empower American Workers to Ensure Prosperity for All." The report provides a short history of how the rise and decline of unions and then explores reforms in labor policy to empower American workers to organize unions and rebuild the middle class.  Today’s post outlines possible policy solut

This is the sixth and last in a series of posts summarizing a new Roosevelt Institute report by Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch, entitled "The Future of Work in America: Policies to Empower American Workers to Ensure Prosperity for All." The report provides a short history of how the rise and decline of unions and then explores reforms in labor policy to empower American workers to organize unions and rebuild the middle class.  Today’s post outlines possible policy solutions to several major challenges to organizing workers in today’s economy. Over the next year, the Future of Work project will be exploring many of these ideas in depth. Their inclusion here is to begin surfacing ideas, rather than as final recommendations for reform.

If we are to give American workers the ability to bargain for a fair share of the wealth they create, we need strengthen labor law – as discussed in my last post – and bring in 34 millions workers (one-in-four) who are now excluded from the National Labor Relations Act.  These include domestic workers, farmworkers, front-line workers with minimum supervisory responsibilities, and public employees. The law should also be extended to include many workers now considered “independent contractors, ” even though an employer effectively determines their pay and working conditions. Examples range from truck drivers and cab drivers to adjunct faculty.

Some of the most innovative and effective organizing of low-wage workers is being done by new types of worker organizations. Worker centers and other groups can and often do perform public services, such as job training, occupational safety and health training, monitoring compliance with labor laws and enrolling workers in a variety of public programs. Government funding should be awarded to the worker groups for these services. Public entities could also bargain directly with worker groups, such as those representing home health care workers. And when government directly or indirectly pays for workers – for example home health care workers are funded by Medicare and Medicaid, – it should require that workers have decent wages and benefits, and provide sufficient funding.

We should also imagine broadening the scope of traditional labor law in the United States, to challenge traditional corporate prerogatives in the economy. When corporate growth comes at the expense of workers, it slows down the economy, because workers have less to spend. Corporations hurt communities when they relocate to seek lower paid workforces and lower taxes, or lobby against worker protections. When corporations lobby for lower taxes, they shirk their responsibility to pay for public services – from the roads on which they transport their goods, to the schools that educate their workers – resulting in deteriorating services and higher taxes on individuals and other businesses that do not get tax breaks.

Organized workers can serve as a powerful antidote to the concentration of corporate power. The law should block corporations from transferring jobs from unionized to non-unionized facilities and from making long-term investment decisions that modernize non-union facilities at the expense of union facilities. Under current law, these practices are banned only when the NLRB can prove that the employer was motivated by anti-union bias, a high bar that is difficult to reach.

The law should require unionized employers to recognize the union as the representative of new workers at any new facilities that the employer establishes or acquires. Unionized employers should not be allowed to close their business or specific facilities without first offering them for sale on the market. Bankruptcy courts should not be able to change union contracts without permission from the union.

The scope of subjects over which employers are currently required to bargain with their employees could be expanded to a number of other subjects that impact workers and communities, including the introduction of new products, decisions to invest in new facilities, pricing, and marketing. In that way, the welfare of workers - not just the interests of shareholders and executives – would be considered in business decisions. Strikes could also be allowed over a broader range of corporate policies, including decisions that impact communities and consumers.

Workers could also be given more of a role in corporate decision-making by requiring employers to allow the formation of “works councils,” an organizational form common in European countries. Works councils are established jointly by employers and worker organizations to represent workers in decisions in the workplace, ranging from personnel and management decisions to policies governing working conditions and major investments and locations. The current provisions in the NLRA, which are designed to block the formation of employer-controlled unions, may need to be amended to clarify that works councils may be set up when the workers approve of the councils and are not objectively dominated by the employer. Another measure would require that corporate boards of directors include representatives of unions, who would have full access to all corporate data.

Local, state, and federal governments could leverage public contracts and subsidies to require employers to comply with workers’ rights to organize. For example, they could prohibit employers from running anti-union campaigns and they could require the recognition of card check elections or other forms of establishing majority support. Government could also require that firms that receive public contracts and subsidies meet standards for pay and benefits, as President Obama has done with his recent executive order establishing a $10.10 minimum wage for workers of federal government contractors.

I’ll conclude with an observation about the politics of the variety of purposely-ambitious policy ideas I’ve outlined in the last two posts in this series. Good ideas can play a key role in organizing workers and in the other ways of making change. It is much easier to get where you want to go if you know where you want to go. Good ideas give people hope that there can be a better world and help them see the way forward.

But the power to win these policies will come through organizing people at work and in their communities, through changing culture and the public’s understanding of the importance of organized workers in moving the economy forward. The most important of these will be organizing workers to demand that they receive a fair share of the wealth they help create.

We hope that the ideas and discussion generated by the Future of Work in America will inspire Americans to ensure that every job respects the dignity and value of every worker, as we build an America of broadly shared prosperity.

Richard Kirsch is a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, a Senior Adviser to USAction, and the author of Fighting for Our Health. He was National Campaign Manager of Health Care for America Now during the legislative battle to pass reform.

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