Things President Obama and Congress Can Do Right Now to Create an All-In Economy

By Mary Kay Henry and Angela Glover Blackwell
Originally posted on the SEIU blog.

Closing racial gaps in income would result in 13 million fewer people living in poverty. Infographic courtesy All-In Nation: An America that Works for All.

Closing racial gaps in income would result in 13 million fewer people living in poverty. Infographic courtesy All-In Nation: An America that Works for All.

With 11.5 million unemployed people in our country, job creation is essential. But they can’t be just any jobs. We need to grow good jobs, increase the quality of all low-wage jobs, and create pipelines to careers that pay family-supporting wages.

In a country as wealthy as the United States, all workers should be able to afford stable housing, healthy food, quality education, and health care. It is also an economic imperative to support our workers if we want to remain competitive globally and boost our economy.

This means increasing wages and labor protections so that every worker, in every industry, can support a family, build assets, and plan for retirement. It also means ensuring that today’s workers—and tomorrow’s—have opportunities to gain the education, skills, and training needed to move up at work, and become a part of the middle class.

This is urgent: by 2020, 66 percent of jobs are expected to require at least some postsecondary education, and we’re not coming close to meeting that demand. And it is even more urgent as communities of color become the majority and yet are disproportionately in low-wage, often dead-end jobs and lack access to the educational and training opportunities to fully manifest their potential and move up in the world of work.

But there are solutions. All-In Nation: An America that Works for All, the new book from PolicyLink and the Center for American Progress, describes how racial and economic inclusion is necessary to achieve shared prosperity as America undergoes a profound demographic shift, and presents a policy agenda to create a more equitable economy. This agenda aligns perfectly with SEIU’s agenda to improve the lives of the nation’s service workers and build a strong and prosperous service sector.

Here are six things from All-In Nation that President Obama and Congress can do right now to put us on the path to economic equity and inclusion:

Guarantee Domestic Workers Basic Wage and Labor Protections.

Nearly two years ago, President Obama pledged to extend basic workplace rights to our country’s 1.8 million domestic workers. While new rules from the Department of Labor extending minimum wage and other basic workplace protections to in-home caregivers have been proposed, they have yet to be finalized. President Obama—perhaps with help from newly confirmed Labor Secretary Tom Perez—can guarantee these rights today.

Do Business Only with Companies that Pay Good Wages and Offer Benefits.

Every year the federal government spends more than $500 billion on goods and services. President Obama can issue an executive order requiring government contracts to go to companies that pay living wages, offer paid sick days, and provide other benefits.

Increase the Minimum Wage.

As Christian Weller, Julie Ajinkya, and Sarah Treuhaft write in All-In Nation, “raising the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 would put $51.5 billion annually in the pockets of affected workers, who are disproportionately people of color, and would create approximately 140,000 new jobs every year.” President Obama and Congress have both an economic and moral incentive to make this happen as soon as possible.

Train Low-Income Youth and Adults for Good Jobs in High-Growth Industries.

Congress should pass the Pathways Back to Work bills proposed by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA), which would prepare hundreds of thousands of low-income youth and adults for quality jobs in high-growth industries. Stay tuned to Half In Ten for ways to get involved.

Strengthen Community Colleges

The Obama Administration and Congress should enact policies like the Community College to Career Fund proposed in President Obama’s FY 2013 budget that would train 2 million workers for well-paid jobs in high-demand sectors.

Protect Labor Rights

The National Labor Relations Board should enact new regulations that modernize the union election process and make it easier for workers to join a union and protect and expand their rights to a living wage, benefits, and other supports.

These steps would be a good start to creating an all-in nation and fostering an inclusive, vibrant economy. All-In Nation presents compelling new analysis demonstrating that racial inclusion would strengthen America’s economy in the short and the long term, and provides a blueprint for creating a more equitable economy and nation. We hope our leaders take note.

Mary Kay Henry is the President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Angela Glover Blackwell is the founder and CEO of PolicyLink.


Angela Glover Blackwell
Angela Glover Blackwell