10 Principles for a Federal Job Guarantee

April 11, 2018
By Angela Glover Blackwell, Sarah Treuhaft, Darrick Hamilton, and William Darity, Jr.

Amid growing economic insecurity and persistent racial economic inequity, a federal job guarantee can be the cornerstone of an inclusive, thriving, and sustainable 21st century American economy. By ensuring that every person who wants to work has access to a quality job, a job guarantee would eliminate involuntary unemployment, unlock human potential, decrease poverty, and raise the floor on low-wage work while building stronger, more vibrant, more connected communities. 

We are deeply encouraged by the positive momentum that is building for this bold and necessary solution. In the spirit of advancing a job guarantee that delivers maximum benefits, particularly for those left behind in our current economy, we call on advocates, policymakers, and the public to champion a federal job guarantee that adheres to the following principles:

  1. Jobs for All: Create publicly-financed jobs for everyone who wants to work, whether they face barriers to employment or are laid off during downturns. These would be net new jobs with no displacement of existing public sector workers.
  2. Good Jobs: Ensure that all jobs created provide safe and healthy working conditions, full worker rights, wages that support a dignified standard of living, and full benefits.
  3. Equity Driven: Embed a race, gender, and broad social equity approach throughout the program.
  4. Workforce Skills: Build lasting skills through on-the-job training, paid apprenticeships, credentialing, and other career-building opportunities.
  5. Productive and Meaningful Work: Ensure projects produce tangible public benefits, meeting our country’s neglected physical and human infrastructure needs including caring for our young and old and addressing climate change.
  6. Stronger Communities: Prioritize projects that improve conditions in disinvested urban, rural, and tribal communities; increase environmental health and sustainability; and strengthen cultural and economic vitality.
  7. Bottom-Up: Foster broad engagement and participation from local communities, especially those most left behind, in suggesting and prioritizing projects. 
  8. Protect the Safety Net: Ensure no loss of social safety net programs.
  9. Raise the Floor: By providing a universal public employment option, increase worker bargaining power and improve the quality of low-wage jobs throughout the economy.
  10. Stable Economy: Protect the economy from future recessions by maintaining consumer spending, while building human capital and improving the environment in ways that create a stronger, more resilient economy.

We simultaneously call for the rejection of job guarantee proposals that use public resources to produce private profits or that impose work requirements that seek to discipline the poor. In addition, we acknowledge that other supportive policies are needed to realize the full promise of a job guarantee including but not limited to immigration reform and universal health care and family care for all.

Please contact Sarah Treuhaft (sarah@policylink.org) with questions and feedback on the principles. We welcome your suggestions and will regularly review and update the principles based on input from partners and potential allies.

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