The Drive for Decent Work*: The Heart of the Coalition’s Agenda
The current, major project of the National Jobs for All Coalition is the Drive for Decent Work (Shared Prosperity and the Drive for Decent Work). The Drive for Decent Work carries forward the concern for both public investment and job creation that were part of our response to Hurricane Katrina, and its rationale includes the Coalition’s ongoing effort to “tell the whole story of unemployment–a problem much larger than the number of jobless reported by the U.S. government.
In developing the rationale for the Drive for Decent Work, the Coalition calls attention to the nation’s “double deficits”: One deficit is the chronic and sometimes acute shortage of jobs for all who want to work. The second deficit is the neglect of public investment in our physical and human infrastructure–the neglect of child, elder and health care, education, housing; of public transit, bridges, levees, schools and other infrastructure; of renewable energy and energy efficient production; and of environmental sustainability.
An important feature of the Coalition’s Drive for Decent Work is its identification of numerous proposals, including legislation pending in Congress, that would begin the task of reconstruction and simultaneously create millions of jobs.
To reduce the “double deficits” in jobs and public investment the Coalition’s Drive for Decent work urges the following:
- Support of a package of bills already introduced in Congress and other proposals that both meet unmet public needs and create millions of stay-in the-US jobs;
- Additional public investment that would close whatever job gap remained in the economy without adding to inflation or competing with private employers who offer decent work;
- Steps to make the minimum wage a living wage by raising it to its 1968 level (equal to $9.25 an hour in 2007) and thereafter linking it to 60% of the average wage.
Start-up costs of this program can be met by reducing military spending to a level reflecting genuine defense needs (including ending a war that bleeds this nation in both lives and treasure), and rescinding the tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations that are depleting the public treasury.
Paying for public investment and job creation will require some reallocation of government spending, especially at first, but in the longer run it would not cost us more than we are currently spending in maintaining a partly idle work force and in responding to the many social ills that joblessness creates. The unemployed would become taxpayers, and the economy less prone to costly recessions. [See Philip Harvey’s Responding To Rising Unemployment: Can We Afford Jobs for All?
Here are some of the steps that the Coalition has taken to gain support of this Drive for Decent Work by the general public, organizations and public officials.
- Publication of a booklet, Shared Prosperity and the Drive for Decent Work, that details the “double deficit,” defines the concept of “decent work,” explains the four steps that comprise the program, identifies the pending legislation and proposals that both create jobs and invest in infrastructure and services, establishes criteria for evaluating job creation proposals and points to other necessary and complementary policies that would contribute to “shared prosperity”, that is, both reduction of economic inequality and a more effective, sustainable economy. This publication can also be obtained as hard copy from the Coalition.
- Preparation of calls to action in English and Spanish–Whatever Happened to Shared Prosperity? — that briefly explain the Drive for Decent Work and invite the participation of individuals and organizations,. These too are also available from the Coalition in hard copy.
- Co-signed a letter with the National Council of Churches and Americans for Democratic Action sent to several hundred members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives who were identified as prospective advocates of the Drive for Decent Work The letter briefly described the project and specifically urged their support for job creation legislation already introduced in Congress. We emphasized the relevance of this proposal to a genuine stimulus package. The letter included the leaflet Whatever Happened to Shared Prosperity?.
- Urged leading contenders for the presidential nominations to support of the Drive for Decent Work with its simultaneous attack on the âdouble deficits.
- Began efforts to gain the endorsement of organizations likely to support the Drive for Decent Work, including those that have supported legislation to create jobs and increase public investment. This has included writing descriptions of the project for organizational newsletters and presentations at meetings, conferences and other forums.
- Wrote articles to promulgate the program: “Flagging Economy Needs Public Investment” (The Progressive Populist, /1/2008) argued for job creation and significant public investment as a genuine stimulus package. Decent Work and Public Investment (New Labor Forum, Spring 2008) was specifically addressed to the campaign for the presidency, and written at the suggestion of New York Central Labor Council Executive Director Ed Ott.
- Established a blog, The Drive for Decent Work. To comment on posts on this blog, you may visit http://fullemployment.
blogspot.com/ and click on Comments at the end of each post.
We ask that you support the Coalition with your valuable opinions, outreach to neighbors and political people about our Decent Work proposal, and financial contributions. Please fill out the brief, enclosed questionnaire that will give NJFAC your reactions to its Drive for Decent work–a new project that unites the goals of many other progressive organizations and that, we hope, will be a turning point in our joint quest for economic justice. And please give generously to support NJFAC’s new initiative.
Learning from History: An NJFAC Powerpoint Presentation
The Coalition is editing and testing with selected audiences a PowerPoint presentation, Learning from History: How the Drive for Decent Work Would Reduce Our Current Economic Problems. Intended for students and a wide range of organizations, from religious to political, this presentation is an attempt to provide historical perspective on the American economy. Drawing on a wide range of scholarly sources, it provides lay audiences with an understanding of current economic problems and at the same time makes a compelling case for a solution that features living wage jobs for all. For more details on its availability, on Coalition speakers or experts to provide assistance to presenters, write to the Coalition at njfac [at] njfac.org
E-mail List for Jobs for All information:
The Coalition has established GoodJobs, an announcements list consisting of occasional messages and information on employment, wages, inequality and other issues related to jobs for all at decent pay. To join GoodJobs and receive these announcement, go tohttp://www.njfac.org, scroll to the bottom and enter your email address in the box “Subscribe to goodjobs.”
Website News: Measuring Job Vacancies and Full Employment. How long has it been since you visited our much-praised and much-used website? We call your attention to an addition to our monthly unemployment update. The NJFAC Website now reports Job Vacancies. These monthly data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that there are far too few job vacancies for jobless workers–even if we confine the comparison to that notorious undercount, officially unemployed workers.
Using monthly job vacancy figures, NJFAC has created a Full Employment Indicator that compares total joblessness–official plus hidden unemployment or “job wanters–to job vacancies. Each month NJAC’s Website will post this Full Employment Indicator to show how close or far we are from the goal stated many years ago by Sir William Beveridge, the English economist who promoted a full employment ideal: “more job seekers than available jobs.”
Look to our web site, too, for monthly data on wages and mass layoffs. It is also a place to brush up on some important economic issues, like updates on inequality, the minimum wage or becoming knowledgeable about Social Security and its critics. We include reactions to the yearly Social Security Trustees’ Reports. When the fight on Social Security heats up again, it will be the place to go for critical assessments.
Almost from its inception, the Coalition has built ties to advocates of full employment in other countries, some of whom have served on the NJFAC Advisory Board. This September will mark a third time at which a member of the Coalition’s Executive Committee has attended and presented a paper at the annual workshop of the EuroMemorandum Group in Brussels. This organization of economists that favors alternative economic policies in Europe has, like NJFAC, crafted job creation proposals that are at the same time public investments in social housing, restructured transportation systems, urban refurbishment, renewable energy, and vital social services such as child and elder care. A paper presented at the EuroMemorandum Workshop in 2006 was a report of a survey of 50 presumed advocates of full employment in North America, Europe and Australia A version of this paper that serves as a brief introduction to thinking about the meaning and prospects for full employment was published in the November 2007 issue of the Journal of Economic Issues).
NJFAC Advisory Board and Executive Committee news
Two new members of the Coalition’s Advisory Board are
Robert Pollin, Professor of Economics and co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute at UMass Amherst. Professor Pollin gave the Memorial Lecture for NJFAC’s founding member and Vice President, Professor Sumner Rosen, that was jointly sponsored by the Columbia University Seminars Program and the Coalition. See Is Full Employment Possible Under Globalization? (revised)
Frank Stricker, Emeritus Professor of History at CSU-Dominguez Hills and author of Why America Lost the War on Poverty–And How to Win It
The new members or officers of the Coalition’s Executive Committee are:
Charles Bell is Vice Chairman and Legislative Chair of the Coalition’s Executive Committee. A founding member of the Coalition and frequent speaker and writer, Chuck Bell is Programs Director, Consumers Union.
Harvey Baylis is Secretary/Treasurer. A long-time member and activist of the Coalition, Harvey Baylis has been a leader in the Unitarian Universalist Congregation and Gray Panthers, both in Queens, NY.
Susan Bendor, Associate Professor, Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University, specializes in gerontology and coping with loss throughout the life span (including unemployment). She chairs several social action committees on boards of non-profit organizations.
Marguerite Rosenthal, Professor of Social Work, Salem State College, is the author of articles on privatization, child welfare and the Swedish welfare state. She has been associated with Grassroots Leadership (headquartered in Charlotte, NC) as a Research Fellow.
Frank Stricker, see above, Advisory Board.
Rev. Marcel Welty, a long-time advisor to the Coalition, is Associate for Research and Planning and Technical and Database Administrator at the National Council of Churches USA. He is involved in curricula, electronic resources, and policy statements on diverse subjects, such as genetic technology, the public health crisis, economic justice, and immigration policy for use by religious leaders, policy advocates, policy-active congregations, and local non-profit agencies. He is also Associate Editor of the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches.
*Decent Work is a concept introduced and advocated by the International Labour Organization (ILO) of the United Nations. Decent work includes not only the promotion of full, productive employment but also a range of other key elements such as gender equality, social security, safety at work, social dialogue, a fair income and social protection for families. Thus, it is very close to the Coalition’s definition of full employment. Decent Work includes much, but not all, of what we mean by Shared Prosperity in the 21st Century. We are proud to join the ILO in promoting decent work. This is how Sumner Rosen, our late vice president, described Decent Work:
…the central principle… clear, practical, difficult but achievable. It lays the groundwork for a global economy that will deserve to be called one of the great historic achievements, a renaissance worthy of the highest praise that history and humanity can provide.
The National Jobs for All Coalition is a project of the Council on Public and International Affairs.