Pressley proposes federal jobs guarantee
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley is calling for a federal job resolution that would guarantee U.S. residents the right to work well-paying jobs through a New Deal-style program that would employ people in fields ranging from elder and child care to work on federal transit projects.
In a call with news media last week, Pressley and a group of economists discussed the resolution.
“It’s time to establish a legal right to a job for all people in America,” she said. “A federal job guarantee is an important investment in the American people, our communities and an equitable economy that works for all. It affirms the right to meaningful, dignified work and a living wage.”
While the program would not replace existing jobs, Pressley said that by paying living wages and allowing for union protection, it would raise the bar for the labor force and pressure employers to increase wages.
If made into law, the guarantee would require the government to increase spending on infrastructure and social service projects to create jobs in the same way the Roosevelt administration created jobs through its 1930s-era New Deal program.
The resolution calls for increased government spending on a wide range of projects, including after-school programs; street and sidewalk repair; public art projects; recovery work after natural disasters; environmental sustainability projects, such as increasing efficiency of buildings and housing stock; and affordable housing repair.
Nina Banks, President of the National Economic Association, cited Black economist Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, who during the New Deal advocated for a federal jobs guarantee.
“Dr. Alexander believed that unemployment was the central economic problem that our nation faced,” Banks said. “She was also aware that persistent racial discrimination against Black workers relegated them to the status of marginal workers who suffered from chronically high rates of unemployment, since they were the last hired and the first to be fired.”
Banks said such a policy now would help relieve the racial wealth gap in America.
New School for Social Research Professor Darrick Hamilton said Blacks have been disproportionately impacted by business closures during the COVID pandemic because many work in service jobs at businesses that were forced to close.
“As we’ve begun to, to relax some of our social distance rules, we’ve seen the reemergence of the adage that Black people in an economic business cycle are the first fired and last hired,” he said. He noted that the unemployment rate currently stands at 6.3% for everyone, 5.7% for white workers and 9.2% for Black workers.
Hamilton said the pandemic will likely increase the already wide wealth and income gaps between Black and white workers without a change in our political economy.
What’s needed, he said, is “a new structural policy that recognizes that changes on the margin won’t cut it to reverse decades and generations of poverty, discrimination and economic and political concentration at the top.”
He added, “We’re going to need a bold overhaul of our laws and our economy, and that needs to be anchored by the automatic stabilizer of a federal job guarantee stimulus plans championed on both sides of the aisle.”
Groups supporting Pressley’s resolution include the Service Employees International Union, Sunrise Movement, Right to the City Alliance and Democratic Socialists of America.