A Job Guarantee is the Centerpiece of the National Jobs for All Network Plan
By GREGORY N. HEIRES
The National Jobs for All Network unveiled a comprehensive plan in April to combat the coronavirus crisis.
The plan calls for immediate assistance for the millions of Americans, especially the poor and minorities, whose lives have been devastated by the public health crisis and the ensuing economic downturn.
The coronavirus crisis demands action of an even greater the magnitude than the New Deal response to the Great Depression, which came close to causing a total economic and political collapse in the United States.
“We need a bolder government response than we’ve yet to see in our lifetimes,” said Trudy Goldberg, chair of the National Jobs for All Network. “The government unemployment statistics released in May are the worst on record. The June numbers are expected to be even worse, with as many as a quarter of our workforce officially jobless, and the real count in the 30% range.” (See “The Full Count,” below.)
The Network’s proposals for “Relief, Recovery and Reform” provide a blueprint for creation of a more just and equitable society.
“The dreadful Pandemic is plaguing a nation already suffering from persistent, deeply divisive, and destructive economic inequality—a nation thus particularly poorly prepared to deal with this crisis,” the plan states.
The public health and consequent economic crisis is exacerbated by the chronic economic, social, and physical insecurity that beset millions of Americans, even in the best of times.
Crises are opportunities to take action against long- standing problems. The NJFAN plan calls for far-reaching government action and expresses a hope and need for a broad-based social mobilization to seize this opportunity for change.
Measures to combat the Great Recession failed to address chronic and growing economic and social inequality. The country must not pass up the opportunity for social reconstruction this time, the plan says.
Worse than the Great Recession
Characterized by mass contagion and an economic free fall, the coronavirus crisis presents a greater public policy challenge than economically induced crises like the recent Great Recession.
The government prevented the Great Recession from turning into a depression by bailing out the financial sector and providing compensation for lost work and income to maintain consumption, restore jobs and hold down employment.
Still, it took nearly a decade for the unemployment rate to reach its pre-recession rate of 4.7 percent. And the government response to the recession failed to address the deep-seated precariousness of work, structural employment, and poverty—challenges that today point to the need for more far-reaching responses, including the establishment of a guarantee of living wage work.
The plan identifies a number of immediate steps to provide relief to millions of Americans who have lost their jobs and been otherwise adversely affected by the pandemic–and to put the country on the path to recovery.
The proposed relief includes:
the provision of federal government benefits to individuals and families, such as food, shelter, health-care assistance and a suspension of rent and mortgage payments, medical and consumer debt, and student loans
federal government leadership and responsibility for universal coronavirus testing, medical care, and sufficient medical equipment and
adequate pay, benefits and protection for front-line health-care workers.
The NJFAN plan also calls for a form of unemployment insurance that matches what a number of European countries have done.
These countries are providing government assistance to enable businesses to keep workers on payroll during the crisis. In contrast, the practice in the United States is to provide workers with unemployment benefits without any assurance that they will be able to return to their jobs after the economy recovers.
The Network’s proposal notes that coronavirus crisis has exposed many unmet human needs. These include national health care; paid sick leave; strengthening of collective bargaining rights; affordable housing; cancellation of student debt; tuition-free public higher education; universal broadband access; the guarantee of a living wage of more than $15 an hour; expanding Social Security benefits; and a stronger national voting system that ensures everyone has the right to vote.
A Job Guarantee
The centerpiece of the plan—drawing inspiration from New Deal programs like the Conservation Corps and Workers Progress Administration—is a federal “Job Guarantee” implemented through direct government job creation program.
In a sense, the job guarantee would fulfill what President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed in his Economic Bill of Rights in 1944. His landmark proposal called for the right to a job along with other benefits, including a good education, a decent home, and security in old age.
Today, the network’s proposed Job Guarantee would not only open the political space for the establishment of those benefits, but it would also help the federal government address climate change. A Green New Deal, for instance, would provide many job opportunities. This would help workers who lose their jobs as the country moves away from fossil fuels.
The new Job Guarantee, the NJFAN plan says, “would help neutralize the most powerful deterrent to the adoption of policies to combat climate-change—a fear of job loss.”
The plan concludes, “This is why we believe that as soon as workers are able to safely begin returning to work following the COVID-19 public health crisis, the New Deal direct government job creation strategy should be deployed to provide work for everyone who wants it.”
The Coronavirus Crisis and Lessons from the New Deal
Pointing out that our fight against the deadly coronavirus is comparable to engaging in a war, Robert Leighninger and Harvey Smith assert in their article shared here that New Deal measures to combat the Great Depression equipped the United States for victory in World War II.
In today’s war, too, we face mass unemployment.
When it is safe to work again, a Job Guarantee—inspired by the New Deal government job creation model—would, as we argue in “Economic Justice, Jobs, for All, and the Coronavirus Pandemic” (see the lead article of this issue), be the best policy to combat unemployment and speed recovery. Leighninger and Smith discuss New Deal policies that contributed to victory in the 1940s, policies which, updated to fit 21st century conditions to include universal access to health care, would help us to achieve victory over this pandemic—and a much more egalitarian and healthy society.
Indeed, had we adopted a Job Guarantee featuring New-Deal-type government job creation programs, we would have been much better prepared for combat this 21st century world war.
How the New Deal Won World War II
By ROBERT LEIGHNINGER and HARVEY SMITH
We have often heard that it wasn’t the New Deal that ended the Great Depression; it was the war. We don’t think that’s true, but rather than resurrect that debate, we’d like to turn it on its head: The war was won by the New Deal.
Understanding this is helpful to our current challenge. We can mount a comprehensive war against the varied menaces of pandemic, massive unemployment, and environmental collapse because we once did something just as formidable.
We want to frame this argument carefully. We will focus on programs initiated by the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration to put people to work, revitalize the economy, and end the Great Depression. Programs enacted during the New Deal that were designed specifically to prepare for war will be left out. This is a tricky line to walk. Roosevelt was aware quite early in his administration that a war was likely, and he may have been thinking of the possible benefits that New Deal programs would have for future preparation for war. But all of the early New Deal initiatives and many of the later ones were targeting the Depression. Furthermore, isolationist sentiment was strong enough that it would have been impossible to gain support for anything that might be tainted with militarism. The New Deal would not have been accepted unless it was totally about the Depression.
We also want to leave out anything of which it might be said: “Well, that would have happened anyway, regardless of who was in the White House, once it was apparent that war was coming.” Our argument is that the programs that re-employed the U.S. workforce and re-energized the economy also were vital in providing a solid foundation of experience, personnel, and infrastructure that allowed us to meet, early and effectively, the threat of the Axis Powers and the Japanese Empire. Such programs would not have been initiated by another administration. They would not have happened without the New Deal.
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was designed in 1933 to employ young men adrift in the jobless economy, to support their families, and to restore a ravaged landscape by planting trees, stopping soil erosion, fighting forest fires, building a system of state parks, and enhancing national parks and forests. The boys learned construction skills, learned to cooperate with other young men of diverse backgrounds, furthered their education, and made lasting contributions to our environment across the nation. The camps were supervised by U.S. Army Reserve officers, so the boys learned to follow orders and even perform close-order drill. Many went on to the armed services even before the war. They were immediately identified by drill sergeants as potential leaders; an instant promotion to corporal was not unusual. Because the Reserve officers had to lead not just through fear of punishment but by inspiring confidence, they were, in the opinion of Gen. George C. Marshall, much better prepared for the range of recruits produced when the draft was imposed. Forty CCC “boys” would earn our highest military award, the Medal of Honor; half of them died in combat. Tossing the coin to begin the 1919 Super Bowl was Hershel “Woody” Williams, who served with the CCC in Montana and then cleared enemy pillboxes with a flamethrower on Iwo Jima. Gen. Mark Clark said, “…the CCC became a potent factor in enabling us to win the war.”
The Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938 was created to stabilize the airline industry. One aspect of this was the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP). The Army had little interest and offered no support in getting the bill through the U.S. Congress. Money was borrowed from the National Youth Administration, an offshoot of the Works Progress Administration. By 1940, almost 10,000 pilots and 2,000 instructors had been trained. The program was open to African Americans. One of them was Robert J. Friend, who flew 142 missions with fellow Tuskegee Airmen of the Red Tail Squadron. He was wingman for Benjamin O. Davis, who became the first black Air Force general. Women were also enrolled, and over a thousand of them became Women’s Army Service Pilots (WASPs). They were vital to the transportation of warplanes from their point of manufacture into the hands of combat pilots. One of them was Betty Jane Williams, who served 28 years in the Air Force and retired as a lieutenant colonel. These women flew all types of aircraft, including the new B-29, which had a reputation for being hard to handle. The men got over their trepidation once they saw WASPs flying them. Another career Air Force officer (who was also a test pilot), Rear Adm. Edward Feightner, was trained by the CPTP and became an ace flying Hellcats in the Pacific Theater.
Secure communication is essential to combat operations. Language must be encoded. One code that was never cracked by our enemies was the Navajo language. The U.S. Marines used Navajo code talkers to coordinate our troops as they re-took Pacific islands from the Japanese. Up until the New Deal, Navajo children were sent away to boarding schools and forbidden to speak their native language. The Public Works Administration built day schools on the Navajo reservation allowing students to stay home with their families. John Collier, the New Deal’s commissioner of Indian Affairs, stopped forced assimilation and championed Navajo culture. Thus, the young men who would become code talkers in the 1940s had almost a decade free from suppression of their language. They were able to accept the challenge of turning their language into an unbreakable code. Major Gen. Howard Conner asserted that without the code talkers the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.
The Public Works Administration (PWA) was created to provide grants and loans for public construction projects that would put people back to work and restart the economy. Much of this work would be undertaken by cities and states building the backbone of our cultural and physical infrastructure—schools, hospitals, courthouses, bridges, libraries and other kinds of public amenities. At the beginning of the New Deal those municipal bodies took some time to prepare their proposals. In the meantime, the PWA turned to cabinet departments that already had projects that needed funds. One was the Navy Dept. The PWA provided funding for two aircraft carriers, four cruisers, 20 destroyers, and four submarines. One carrier, the USS Enterprise, and a heavy cruiser, the USS Vincennes, escorted the USS Hornet as it launched the first counter-strike after Pearl Harbor, Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle’s raid on Tokyo. The Enterprise helped stop the Japanese invasion of New Guinea at the Battle of the Coral Sea and, along with the carrier USS Yorktown, was essential in winning the Battle of Midway. This engagement is regarded by both Americans and Japanese as the turning point in the Pacific War. The other New Deal vessels played important roles in support of the Guadalcanal campaign, the island-hopping reconquest of the Pacific, the liberation of the Philippines, and final assault on the Japanese homeland.
Airports are essential in the development of military power. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) built 350 landing fields and improved many others, extending runways, adding lighting, and building terminals and hangers. Wold-Chamberlain Field, now Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, got three large concrete runways, which enabled it to be the site of the re-fitting of the B-25 Mitchell bombers that conducted the Doolittle Raid. The same field provided training for the Waco gliders used in the D- Day Invasion. Nearby Holman Field, built entirely by the WPA, re-fitted B-24 Liberator bombers with radar. The PWA was also active in airport construction. They expanded Barksdale Field in Louisiana into a major Army Air Corps base. New Deal infrastructure helped keep soldiers alive. The Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938 supported the construction of four regional experimental laboratories. The British, who had invented penicillin, did not have the facilities for making it available for use by combat medics. They turned to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, which developed the process in their Peoria, Ill., experimental lab. This probably saved thousands of lives.
One of the biggest investments made by the New Deal in the U.S. economy was in the development of hydroelectric power. Massive dams, built by the PWA and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), provided water and electricity to agricultural, industrial, and research facilities all over the country. They also controlled flooding and improved navigation. Assessing this impact is difficult, but it was undeniably huge. Hoover Dam, called Boulder Dam until 1947, together with Parker Dam, Imperial Dam, the Colorado River Aqueduct (constructed earlier), and the All-American Canal brought water to Los Angeles and turned the Imperial Valley into the “Winter Garden of America.” The Bonneville and Grand Coulee dams on the Columbia River provided similar benefits to the Pacific Northwest. The eventual implications for national defense are immense, but two examples will suffice for a beginning. The aluminum industry flourished with the introduction of hydropower, and it is estimated that the electricity from the Grand Coulee dam made the aluminum for about one-third of the planes build during WWII. The atom bomb that ended the war was made possible because of New Deal hydroelectric projects. Oak Ridge, Tenn., needed an enormous amount of electricity, which it got from the TVA, to enrich uranium. The water from the Columbia River dams cooled the nuclear reactors that produced plutonium at Hanford, Wash.
Beyond personnel and infrastructure, the many agencies and organizations spawned by the New Deal gave thousands of people the experience and skills that could be immediately transferred to war activities. Henry Kaiser, Warren Bechtel, and Bechtel’s son Stephen, who collectively had a huge impact on American ship-building, learned how to manage large construction as part of the six companies that built Boulder Dam. It required working directly with the federal government, cooperating with other contractors, and managing projects the sheer size of which were a new phenomenon in U.S. industry. William Knudsen, who headed General Motors and was tapped by Roosevelt to head war production, had extensive experience dealing with the New Deal from the beginning of the National Recovery Act. When war arrived and industry needed to respond immediately, these years of experience gave the massive mobilization needed to create the “arsenal of democracy,” a giant assist.
Defense projects like Oak Ridge and defense industries around the country needed housing for workers. The Lanham Act of 1940 built it. But this operation rested on years of experience building housing provided by the PWA’s Housing Division, the Resettlement Administration and the United States Housing Administration. The private sector’s lack of experience in this area was displayed by the miserable conditions for workers and their families in places like Henry Ford’s B-26 bomber plant at Willow Run outside Detroit.
Artistic experience was useful to the war effort too. The WPA’s Federal Art Project included thousands of graphic artists who moved immediately to create images promoting enlistment, safety, and security. Soon-to-be famous Abstract Expressionist painters Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollack designed window displays for war training programs. The photographic division of the Farm Security Administration, which used arresting images captured by famous artists like Dorothea Lange, Gordon Parks, Arthur Rothstein, and Ben Shahn to dramatize the miseries of the Depression, was easily transformed into the Office of War Information
These are all very specific assets that enhanced preparation for war but sprang from programs not intended for that purpose but rather to defeat the Great Depression. We can look beyond them to the general effects of the anti-Depression programs that restored the economy and strengthened the health, safety, and level of education of the U.S. population. When the war came, the United States would have mobilized to defend itself. All of these things might have happened in time. But how many years would it have taken to achieve what the New Deal accomplished in the five years between 1933 and 1938? By 1938, the New Deal was not only well on the way to ending the Depression, it had already laid the groundwork for the defeat of the Axis Powers and Imperial Japan. The New Deal won World War II. Knowing that, why shouldn’t we be able to devise a comprehensive Green New Deal that reshapes our national policies to confront the war we now face on three fronts: health, employment, and the environment? We have nothing to fear but lack of will.
New Deal scholar Robert Leighninger is a National Jobs for All Network board member. Harvey Smith is chair of the board of the National New Deal Preservation Association and author of Berkeley and the New Deal (Arcadia, 2014).
We encourage readers to submit comments and reflections on this piece on the NJFAN Blog.
Precarious Work in the Pre-COVID Economy
President Trump’s ability to boast about overseeing an economy in which unemployment reached a 50-year low was short-lived because of the virus-induced economic crisis.
But the true story, as pointed out in an editorial note in the February issue of Monthly Review Magazine, is that the administration’s track record on jobs never matched the rosy public relations platitudes emanating from the White House.
The editorial points out that:
wages have remained stagnant even though mainstream economists say pay should go up when the economy is strong
newly-created jobs tend to be poorly paid and lack good benefits. In the last three decades, 63 percent of all new production and nonsupervisory jobs have had low wages and insufficient hours.
The factors behind the precariousness of work include a decline in unionism, an historically low labor participation rate, underemployment, the degradation of working conditions, rising inequality, a weak welfare state, job and income loss from free-trade agreements, and structural unemployment.
Noting that even then, the economy was “far from full employment,” the editorial recommends readers take a look at our Jobs for All Manifesto published on MR Online in November 2019.
Leave a comment about precarious work on the NJFAN Blog
Trudy Goldberg Interviewed on Democracy at Work
BY SHEILA COLLINSNational Jobs for All Network Chair Trudy Goldberg appeared March 18 on the podcast Democracy at Work.
Among the topics Goldberg and host Richard Wolff discussed were the undercounting of official unemployment figures by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the effect of this underestimation of the problem; the workplace implications of full employment or a Job Guarantee; and the deep deprivation inflicted by unemployment.
Goldberg pointed out that real joblessness is more than double the official unemployment rate. For example, in February 2020, the official unemployment rate was 3.5 percent, or 5.8 million people. That was only a portion of real joblessness. Another 4.3 million people were working part-time but wanted full-time work, and 5.0 million more wanted work but weren’t looking, perhaps because they were discouraged or lacked child care or transportation. Thus real joblessness at a time of record low unemployment, was 15.1 million, 2.6 times the official count.
One effect of underemphasizing the problem, Goldberg emphasized, is political. Mobilization, movement-building and the political response to a social condition depends partly on whether the problem affects many people. Undercounting diminishes public attention and political responses to a social condition.
Wolff and Goldberg talked about the effects of genuine full employment, one of which is to strengthen the position of workers and the extent to which they are assertive and press for their rights. If workers fear unemployment, they are less likely to stand up for their rights. With a Job Guarantee, they can still be fired but know they can find another job. This advantage to workers is one reason employers oppose full employment–because it robs them of a major means of disciplining the workforce and keeping it submissive.
Goldberg discussed how unemployment disproportionately afflicts African Americans and other minorities as well as young workers, who begin their working lives with poor prospects for employment and future economic security. Unemployment robs people of the ability to practice the work ethic, which the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. called, “the creed of our society.”
Democracy at Work host Wolff is professor of economics emeritus at University of Massachusetts in Amherst and a visiting professor in the graduate program in International Affairs of the New School University in New York.
For years, progressive economists have pointed out that abstract government statistics such as the Gross Domestic Product fail to provide a true picture of the economic well being of ordinary Americans.
The new monthly U.S. Private Sector Job Quality Index is an effort to fill this gap. Cornell Law School, along with the Coalition for a Prosperous America, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity, unveiled the measure in November 2019.
The purpose of the JQI is to provide a measure of quality of jobs. It studies the jobs of private-sector production and nonsupervisory workers, who account for more than 80 percent of all workers in the private sector.
The quality of jobs is measured by weekly wages. High-quality jobs are defined as jobs with weekly wages above the mean for all jobs. Low-quality jobs fall below the mean.
As a measurement of the total of all the goods and services produced within a nation’s boarder, the GDP is an indicator of the overall health of the economy. As it does not express the distribution of income or quality of jobs, it is a poor indicator of the well-being of households.
As the country looks to climb out of the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, policymakers are already debating how government should help the millions of low-wage workers who lost their jobs.
Before the virus-induced economic downtown, full-employment advocates pointed to recent evidence of the crucial role the minimum wage plays in improving the lot of our country’s most vulnerable workers.
In 2019, research by the National Employment Law Project showed that state and county minimum wage initiatives reversed the decline in pay that millions of low-wage workers experienced after the Great Recession hit the country in 2009. That occurred while the real wages for most U.S. workers remained below 2009 levels.
The bottom fifth of workers gained close to a 4 percent wage increase in states where minimum wages were raised between 2013 and 2018. By contrast, in the states without minimum wage increases, the bottom fifth did not experience real wage growth while suffering a .5 percent decline since the end of the recession.
But as the workers of the Fight for 15 movement and their supporters mobilize to improve the livelihood of underpaid workers, conservative politicians are doing their best to block those efforts.
A 2019 study by NELP examined 12 cities and counties that passed a higher local minimum only to see their state legislatures invalidate those initiatives and prohibit local minimum wages.
These “preemption” laws resulted in an annual loss of nearly $1.5 billion in the wages of nearly 350,000 workers, disproportionately women and people of color. For individual workers, the loss amounted to about $4,000 a year.
The economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic has led to calls for the government to revive the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the New Deal jobs program that helped the United States get through the Great Depression decades ago.
The CCC, a federal work program, paid unskilled and unemployed young men $30 a month to serve in various work projects around the country.
The voluntary public relief program, which operated from 1933 to 1942, employed 3 million men. The CCC’s 300 projects included work on fire lookout towers, foot trails, erosion control, planting of trees and shrubs, landscape and recreation, fish stocking and even pest control.
In just months, the coronavirus has wiped out the number of jobs –more than 23 million—that were created over the last 10 years since the Great Recession. The country’s dire jobless picture—a projected quarter of the workforce could be unemployed by next month—cries out for a CCC-like federal public works program and Jobs Guarantee.
The Poor People’s Campaign Launches Digital Mobilization
The Poor People’s Campaign is going digital. The nationwide grassroots group–which is dedicated to the struggle for economic justice and a moral revival in our country—will on June 20 hold the largest digital and social media gathering of poor and low-wealth people, moral and religious leaders, advocates, and people of conscience in this nation’s history.
The global coronavirus pandemic is exposing more than ever the existing crisis of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, the war economy and militarism, and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism.
On June 20, the 140 million poor and low-income people across this nation will be heard!
Ohio University Budget Battle Presages Nationwide Public Sector Fightback
Public sector workers around the country are bracing deep budget cuts caused by the severe economic downturn resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
An early warning sign of how the crisis threatens public services and public employees is what’s happening at Ohio State University where the faculty and the administration are negotiating over how to meet an anticipated 20 percent budget cut for the coming school year.
Across the country, as many as 1 million public employees could be laid off as states and cities implement budget cuts in response to the coronavirus recession, according to estimates.
The $2.2 trillion CARES Act approved by the federal government in March provided $150 billion to state and local governments to help defray the costs of the public health emergency. But state and local officials say the federal assistance is way too low.
The National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties and the U.S. Conference of Mayors have asked for $250 billion more in aid.
Responding to the budget cut announcement in April, the Ohio University faculty association called for a freeze on the bonuses of administrators and temporary pay cuts for the most highly paid faculty
Rent Strikes Hit New York City, Philadelphia and Other Cities
Millions of tenants across the country began a rent strike on May Day as they struggled to deal with the economic fallout of the coronavirus recession.
The bold action on May 1, coordinated by activists in New York City, Philadelphia and the Bay Area, is seen as the largest rent strike in history. In April, an estimated third of the country’s tenants stopped paying rent.
The tenants are demanding that landlords and politicians recognize the need for rent forgiveness as the country faces its most grave employment crisis since the Great Depression. They are calling upon the federal and state governments to support rent cancellation, provide financial relief, and prohibit evictions.
An International Call to Democratize and Decommodify Work
More than 4,000 researchers across all five continents on May 15 signed onto the op-ed, “Let’s democratize and decommodify work,” which was published in 25 languages and 41 newspapers around the world.
The manifesto is an urgent call to rewrite the rules of our economic system in the midst of an unprecedented health, climate and political crisis intensified by COVID-19, and is made up of the following three core principles: democratize (firms), decommodify (work), and remediate (policies) in order to respect planetary boundaries and make life sustainable for all.
Work: Democratize, Decommodify, Remediate is an initiative launched by a core working group of eight leading women scholars working on democratic governance, securing the right to employment, participatory democracy and social justice.
USA – Julie Battilana, Harvard Business School
USA – Helene Landemore, Yale University
USA – Pavlina Tcherneva, Bard College
FRANCE – Julia Cagé, Sciences Po Paris
FRANCE – Dominique Méda, Université Paris
BELGIUM – Isabelle Ferreras, University of
GERMANY – Lisa Herzog, University of Groningen
SPAIN – Sara Lafuente Hernandez, European
Trade Union Institute
New York Assembly Member Patricia Fahy Proposes New Public Job Creation Program for Pandemic Recovery
Public Works Program to Focus on the Creative Economy, Youth, and Environment
ALBANY, N.Y. – Assemblymember Patricia Fahy (D – Albany) announced today she’s introducing legislation to create a New Deal-style ‘Works Progress Administration-Pandemic Recovery’ jobs program, targeting Millennials and youth who’ve been among the hardest hit. The global COVID-19 pandemic has created a catastrophic level of joblessness in New York State with over a million people out of work, a 13% unemployment rate, and the U.S. economy in disarray on a scale not seen since the Great Depression. Troubling economic forecasts have raised questions about how many of these jobs, such as in retail and the food industry, will ever return.
A modern, statewide version of the original WPA – created in 1935 by President Franklin Roosevelt – the WPA-PR would help stem the economic damage from the COVID-19 crisis through creating a short-term job creation program. Under this legislation, the New York State Department of Labor (NYS DOL) would approve eligible projects such as: contact tracing, conservation and climate change mitigation, boosting New York’s creative economy, and enhancing the agricultural sector. The result would be the creation of a new American cultural juggernaut, a new statewide green workforce, and a lasting, meaningful public investment in the youngest part of our labor force.
In a letter sent April 28 to New York’s Congressional Delegation, Assemblymember Fahy, joined by two dozen of her colleagues, urged members to prioritize creation of a federal level, national WPA-style jobs program to address the new economic challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. An April 30 Albany Business Review and Altamont Enterprise opinion piece echoed this call for a massive mobilization of national resources and modern investment in our nation’s workforce. In the absence of such action on the federal level, New York State can mitigate the economic impact of this crisis through taking bold action such as the creation of a state-level WPA-PR.
“New York State has the been the hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis and the economic devastation requires a bold, short-term, public works job program like the WPA-PR to restart and reinvigorate our state’s economy,” said Assemblymember Patricia Fahy. “Nearly one-third of those under 35 are out of work with the majority in low-wage, retail sector, or gig-economy jobs. Creating the WPA-PR would provide young New Yorkers with good-paying jobs in the creative economy and bolster the state’s arts and cultural institutions. A bold investment like the WPA-PR would help create and train a new state green workforce, build clean-energy infrastructure, and reinvigorate the promise of the American Dream in NY.”
Note: The National Jobs For All Network (NJFAN) is reviewing the proposed NY bill, and providing expert advice to the sponsors about the proposed public job creation program.
Job Guarantee Pledge
Jobs for All: A Prosperity Economy
Imagine a country:
Where everyone who wants to work has a living-wage job.
Where no one needs to cobble together multiple jobs to make ends meet.
Where joblessness and its consequences no longer exist.
Where millions are working in concert to heal our environment, rebuild our physical and care infrastructure, and renew our public art.
Where the basic right to a job is at last guaranteed.
We face a crisis of economic insecurity. At this moment of economic and ecological upheaval, when pervasive economic insecurity and racial exclusion exist alongside concentrated wealth and a sweltering planet, the United States needs a strategy to build an economy that produces economic security and dignity for all.
A federal Job Guarantee is our way forward. By ensuring every person who wants to work can find a good job meeting vital community needs, a federal Job Guarantee can be the cornerstone of an inclusive, thriving, and sustainable 21st century American economy.
Join us in calling for a federal Job Guarantee – our path to an American economy centered around human value. Show your commitment to a Job Guarantee by signing this Jobs for All Manifesto.
The inability to provide good jobs for all even in the best of times is a key failure of the American economy—one that reinforces inequities, squanders human potential, and takes a tremendous toll on society. Despite a booming economy, millions of workers remain jobless or underemployed, more than 40 percent of workers earn less than $15/hour, and 40 percent of Americans cannot afford a $400 emergency. This is neither sustainable nor necessary. From Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s inclusion of guaranteed living-wage work in his Second Bill of Rights, to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King’s call for guaranteed jobs in the fight for racial and economic justice, to the call by environmental justice advocates for a Job Guarantee in the Green New Deal, visionary leaders know a Job Guarantee is a potent solution.
Good jobs for all would become our reality. With a Job Guarantee, the devastating experience of not finding work would become obsolete. People facing discrimination in the job market would have an alternative to going without or going underground. Workers would no longer be stuck in jobs where they are harassed or unsafe, or where they experience wage theft. No workers would need to toil in poverty-wage jobs with unstable and disruptive schedules. Poverty, racial and gender inequity, and working poverty would all decline. And when the next downturn hits, workers could take up guaranteed jobs, moderating the effects of the recession for everyone.
We could revitalize communities and counter climate change. A Job Guarantee would make it possible to meet neglected community needs and manifest community aspirations. It could deliver on the environmental restoration and energy-efficiency projects needed to address climate change. It could help meet our demands for elder care for our aging population, strengthen our child care infrastructure, and support our public school teachers. It could make public art accessible to all and bring new resources and hope to hard-hit local economies. And a Job Guarantee removes a major barrier to countering our environmental crisis: fear of job loss.
National Jobs for All Network
Modern Money Network
TAKE ACTION: If you agree with the statement, please Endorse the Job Guarantee Pledgeby filling out this form. We’ll list you and/or your organization as a supporter, and keep in touch with you as proposals for a federal Job Guarantee move forward.
Officially unemployed: 23.1 million (14.7%)Hidden unemployment: 20.8 million
(Includes 10.9 million people working part-time
because they can’t find a full-time job;
and 9.9 million people who want jobs,
but are not actively looking)
Total: 43.9 million (26.4% of the labor force)There are 7.1 job-wanters for each available job!For more information and analysis, visit: www.njfac.org
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
How High is Unemployment?
By FRANK STRICKER
The official unemployment rate for April was 14.7 percent, and the number of unemployed was 25.4 million people.
That last figure is about as large as the total population of Scandinavia. It’s a big number.
The 14.7 unemployment rate is already higher than recession peaks in 1975, 1982, and 2009. It’s the highest level since 1934, in the midst of the Great Depression.
But real the numbers are even worse.
The National Jobs for All Network believes the true unemployment rate for April amounted to 26.4 percent. The official rate does not account for hidden unemployment, which includes people who wish to be employed but have given up on searching for work and part-time workers who want full-time jobs.
The future looks bleak. There is no new stimulus in place yet. Whatever is approved will take time to implement.
Regardless, many businesses will never re-open or they will collapse from lack of customers. Also, many of the unemployed may be eager to get back to work, but they aren’t thrilled about the prospect of getting very sick at work, or giving up pretty good unemployment benefits.
The next official unemployment rate may be in the 20s with as many as one in four workers losing their jobs as a result of the economic fallout from the coronavirus. We believe the full count will likely be in the 30s.
The Jobs for All Newsletter is a publication of the National Jobs for All Network (NJFAN).
The NJFAN is dedicated to the propositions that meaningful employment is a precondition for a fulfilling life and that every person capable of working should have the right to a job. Founded in 1994 at a National Leadership Consultation for Full Employment attended by representatives of over 70 regional and national organizations, the NJFAN is dedicated to the proposition that meaningful, environmentally sustaining employment is a humanright and that the Guarantee of such employment is essential for the health of families, communities, nations, and the planet.
As part of our mission, the NJFAN promotes discussion, encourages networking, and disseminates information concerning the problem of unemployment, the struggle for workers’ rights, and the goal of guaranteeing decent work for everyone who wants it.
We are publishing this newsletter to provide a public forum where the multiple groups and countless individuals interested in promoting this goal can learn what others are doing to promote the Job Guarantee idea, build public support for it, and pursue legislative initiatives to implement it.
We invite our readers to:
Comment on the contents of this issue of the Jobs for All Newsletter
Help us to establish a Jobs for All Action Clearinghouse by informing us of publications, actions and events that promote a Job Guarantee or related economic justice goals so we can share the information with other readers
Submit ideas for articles in coming issues of the Jobs for All Newsletter
Provide names and email addresses of individuals to whom we may send a subsequent issue of the Jobs for All Newsletter.
Newsletter Committee: Gregory N. Heires, editor; Chuck Bell, production; Trudy Goldberg, Philip Harvey, Logan Martinez (Action Updates); June Zaccone (the Full Count and NJFAN web site).
NJFAN relies on your support. If you find our material useful, please make a tax-deductible donation. We are all volunteers, except for a part-time coordinator.
National Jobs for All Network
P.O. Box 96
Lynbrook, NY 11563