URPE Joins the Drive for Decent Work/Shared Prosperity

Trudy Goldberg and Helen Ginsburg

The National Jobs for All Coalition (NJFAC) is delighted that URPE has endorsed our Drive for Decent Work—a first step towards Shared Prosperity. What is this project, and how can URPE members help to change the economic agenda in this pre-election period?

National output per person has doubled since 1970, but it’s no news to you that nearly all gains have trickled up to the top. NJFAC’s Drive for Decent Work is a major strategy to change that and to move the country toward Shared Prosperity.

How Can We Accomplish This Goal? By simultaneously reducing the chronic deficits in decent jobs and public investment. Even when unemployment is in the 4-5% range, tens of millions are unemployed, underemployed or underpaid. Minorities and youth are perpetually hard hit. At the same time there is chronic public underinvestment. We can all point to potential Katrinas, but in addition to decaying bridges and levees, there are crying needs for public investment—in mass transit, affordable housing, schools, child, elder and health care. Each day brings the environmental crisis closer and reminds us of the need for preventive public investment.

NJFAC’s 4-step strategy is to reduce both deficits—to create decent jobs for all and to increase public investment.

Step 1: Support bills introduced in Congress and other proposals to meet urgent, unmet human needs. Implementation of these proposals alone would create millions of living wage jobs. Unemployment, underemployment and the public investment deficits would plummet.

Step 2. Cut military spending to genuine military needs and repeal the Bush tax cuts that have lined the pockets of the rich, increased inequality and robbed the Treasury of trillions. Ending the tax giveaways and wasteful military spending would provide start-up costs for the Drive for Decent Work.

In the long run, however, NJFAC’s plan for job creation and public investment would pay for itself. The unemployed would become taxpayers and government would spend less on the heavy social and economic costs of unemployment. Workers would be healthier, better educated—hence, more productive and likely to earn more. Our productive capacity would be more full realized. The economic stimulus of direct job creation typically spurs additional, indirect job creation.

Step 3: Introduce and pass NJFAC’s 21st Century Investment Act to provide high-priority public works and services not currently funded and at the same time create decent jobs for the unemployed. This would establish a National Employment Accounting Office to evaluate progress, assess continuing need for job creation and public investment and assure community involvement and achievement of decent work principles.

Step 4: Make the Minimum Wage a Living Wage by bringing it up to its 1968 level or about $9.27 an hour (2007) to be phased in and linked to 60% of the average wage thereafter.

The Drive for Decent Work is a strategy that can raise public consciousness of new and better possibilities—for a better life for ordinary women and men. Getting this message out is a way of putting pressure on present and future public officials. It tells them that the old excuses won’t work any more. America needs this program,. It can afford the Drive for Decent Work. It can’t afford not to have it.

What Can You Do?

  • Use this proposal as a teaching tool.
  • Sign onto the Drive for Decent Work as an individual.
  • Recruit other signers and other organizations
  • Try to get your city government to endorse the Drive for Decent Work and to hold hearings on it.
  • Ask clergy, community leaders, union members and ordinary men and women to endorse.
  • Seek the endorsement of local unions and other organizations and put it on their programs and print it in their newsletter.
  • Speak to your legislators and urge them to sponsor and support bills that create decent jobs and enhance public investment as well as NJFAC’s 21st Century Investment Act (currently being drafted)
  • Write letters to newspapers and op-eds based on these proposals.
  • Volunteer to speak on behalf of the Drive for Decent Work.
  • Make a contribution to NJFAC to help pay for this campaign.NJFAC’S website has an attractive leaflet in English and Spanish that outlines the Drive for Decent Work. You can download it or order copies from NJFAC.URPE is an early supporter of the Drive for Decent Work/Shared Prosperity. Among other initial supporters are the National Council of Churches and Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) who joined us in a letter urging many members of Congress to sign on to this program.

The National Jobs for All Coalition, founded in 1994, is the only national organization with the goal of living-wage jobs for everyone who wants to work. NJFAC is composed of organizations and individuals from all walks of life who believe that everyone who wants to work should be able to have a decent-paying job. Among the members of the NJFAC advisory board are Eileen Appelbaum, Elaine Bernard, James Galbraith, Manning Marable, Robert Pollin, Helen Prejean, William Quigley, Pete Seeger, Ruth Sidel, Marc Tool, William Julius Wilson, Kent Wong, Representative Jerrold Nadler and Rev. Bob Edgar, former General Secretary of the National Council of Churches.  Contact NJFAC: e-mail: njfac [at] njfac.org).

reprinted from the URPE Newsletter for Spring, 2007, (V38,#3)