Tag Archives: jobs

A Pandemic is Another Terrible Time to be Poor

Pearl River     There’s no good time to be poor in America.  Not surprisingly, a pandemic bringing rampant disease and deaths in droves is a spectacularly bad time to be poor.  Some are even noticing the poor now, although that doesn’t necessarily mean that a whole lot is being done about it.

For example, it turns out that lower-waged and other blue and pink-collar workers have to work, regardless of the peril to themselves and the community.  Home health care workers, construction workers, tradespeople, grocery stockers, delivery workers, and hundreds of others are essential, grateful for the paychecks in these times, but unprotected and at risk.  The Times using cellphone data found that lower income workers delayed by three days on average being able to follow stay-at-home orders around the country.  In what has to be the understatement of the day, the reporter wrote, “The impact of the virus is thought to also be higher in lower income neighborhoods.”  Roger that, Captain Government Oblivious!

The reports on unemployed data are stark, but give only a peek at the disaster.  Almost 10 million have applied in March, and that doesn’t count the millions that are still trying as state unemployment websites crash repeatedly.  It will get worse: “Forecasting firm Oxford Economics projects that by May, the U.S. will have lost 27.9 million jobs and have a 16% unemployment rate, erasing all the jobs gained since 2010 during the record-setting 113-month stretch of employment gains through February. That job loss would be more than double the 8.7 million positions cut from payrolls during the 2007-2009 recession and its aftermath. And those jobs were lost over 25 months.”

People are going to go hungry unless there is fast action.  Washington Post columnist, Catherine Rampell, surveyed a number of food banks to report, “In surveys of food banks conducted from March 19 to 23 by Feeding America, the nation’s largest organization for domestic hunger relief, 92 percent reported increases in demand for food assistance. The size of the increase varies by location, with some reporting doubling or even septupling their usual distributions.”

The homeless, always with us, in the pandemic are seen as street-side hotspots like nursing homes that could flare up and take down whole communities, prompting action.  Finally.  The stimulus bill is the biggest federal and state expenditure for the homeless in history.  Cities are trying to rapidly move them off the streets into some kind of stay-at-home situation.  Nonetheless experts estimate that close to 5% or more than 3500 nationally will die.

But, wait, the stimulus bill will do the trick.  Well, hmmm.  Turns out for very low-income people who haven’t had to file tax returns, they will have a problem.  Automatic payments are guaranteed only to those whose information is already in the computers at the Internal Revenue Service or the Social Security Administration. Everyone else must follow instructions posted by the I.R.S., which says many low-income people and others who aren’t usually required to file tax returns will need to do so if they want their payments.  Goodness knows, we can’t give the poor a break.

This is now when we’re still chasing our tail to catch up with our heads.  Who doesn’t believe for lower income and working families that it isn’t going to get way worse before we have a hint at anything getting better?

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Jobs to Move America Reminds Everyone that Accountability is Key to Agreements

New Orleans       Jobs to Move America is a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that had a fantastic idea that was as simple and straightforward as it was dynamic.

If a public agency is going to offer a contract to purchase something like major public transportation equipment, they should commit at the same time to creating jobs domestically, and even locally, in order to win the award.  And, why not?  Public dollars creating public goods.  The organization got an agreement initially from LA Metro to combine a jobs creation commitment with a purchase of rail-cars to an American subsidy of Canadian-based New Flyer Industries.  Using the model developed by Jobs to Move America, reportedly eight other agencies, including big timers in New York and Chicago and even Amtrak, have made similar deals since 2012 when LA Metro inked the first one.

The agreements weren’t haphazard promises of the kind cities too often make using Community Development Block Grant funds to pave the way for favored developers with vague commitments about job training or development.  They had the numbers on full-time jobs – and wages – that would be created.  The multiplier impact to the Los Angeles community was huge in the original agreement, as reported in the New York Times, with some $18 million, creating a significant advantage for New Flyer’s bid.

I’m not surprised since Madeline Janis, executive director of Jobs to Move America, was formerly the director and sparkplug for LAANE, the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, a community-labor nonprofit that ACORN long respected and admired as a sister freedom fighter, innovator, and partner on living wage and community-benefit agreements.  Nor was I surprised to see that they had filed suit in California courts against New Flyer when they discovered that the company had underpaid the workers employed under the manufacturing contract by as much as a buck an hour.  Additionally, records reviewed by the Times and provided by the nonprofit found that the benefits package was half of what was promised.

Back in the day, I’ve sat on panels at conferences on living wages with her and other LAANE representatives, and they were always in the lead in banging the drum that an organization needs to work as hard on enforcement of an agreement as they worked to win the agreement in the beginning, which was always excellent advice, but too often either ignored or past the interest and capacity of the original campaigns.

This is a campaign that should be happening in every city.  Why not make the best deal for everyone on the front end, and then make sure the deal is honored on the back end?

No good reason that I can think of, and Jobs to Move America has already paved the road both going and coming.

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Please enjoy How Glad I Am  by Chrissie Hynde and the Valve Bone Woe Ensemble.

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