“It's a no-brainer: Congress should pass the bill. Now.” That’s how California Gov. Jerry Brown characterized the decision facing Congress on whether to pass President Obama’s $447 billion American Jobs Act, the legislative language of which was released in full this week. Gov. Brown’s reaction was not unique amongst state officials around the nation, dozens of whom have come out in strong support of the bill. As reports around the nation this week indicated, state economies stand to benefit significantly from the boost that would be provided by direct funding in the bill allowing them to put construction workers back to work rebuilding crumbling schools and infrastructure, and to make sure teachers, firefighters, and cops in their communities stay on the job.
This week, Seattle’s City Council voted 8-1 to make their city the fourth major city in the nation — following Washington, D.C., Milwaukee and San Francisco — to enact legislation ensuring that workers will not have to choose between keeping their jobs and getting the health care they or a family member need. Earlier this year, conservative state legislators struck down Milwaukee’s law, enacted by a a 70-30 majority in a 2008 ballot initiative, by passing a bill stripping local governments of the power to regulate family and medical leave. This victory for Seattle families continues the positive national momentum of paid sick days legislation, which was also enacted statewide in Connecticut earlier this year, and which promises to continue to be a priority for lawmakers seeking economic security for their constituents across the nation in cities and states next year. It also comes at a time when some tragic, real-life stories of families affected by a lack of paid sick days are emerging, reinforcing the need for this critical measure.
States looking to avoid making devastating budget cuts following the Great Recession have turned in recent years to closing tax loopholes, including requiring online retailers with a physical presence in-state to collect state sales taxes. Unsurprisingly, states who have pursued this approach have been fought every step of the way by huge corporations, specifically the online retail giant Amazon. This week, the battle came to a head in California, where lawmakers — who had earlier this year passed a measure requiring large online retailers to collect sales taxes — compromised in the face of a multimillion dollar effort by Amazon to take the issue to the voters in a ballot referendum by agreeing to delay the implementation of the law by one year.
In this week’s Research Roundup: Reports from Demos on a better jobs plan for the nation, the West Virginia Policy Center and North Carolina Justice Center on the state of the economy for working families, the Commonwealth Fund on the latest status of state health insurance exchange legislation, the U.S. Census Bureau on increasing poverty and declining median wages in the United States, the Center for American Progress on the devastating cost of the E-Verify immigration enforcement system, the Center for Economic and Policy Research on how direct care has been largely ignored in industrial and economic policy, the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment on the corrosive effect of continuing job losses and anemic job growth on union membership, and more.
Help Wanted: America Needs a Better Jobs Plan — This policy brief from Demos, released in response to President Obama’s speech outlining his jobs plan, argues that additional measures beyond the $447 billion proposal are necessary in order to plug a huge shortage of demand in the economy. Among the policies suggested are: raising labor standards to ensure that jobs pay a middle class wage, making it easier for workers to join unions, doing more to aid small businesses, and directly creating public jobs.
State of Working West Virginia and State of Working North Carolina — These two reports from the West Virginia Policy Center and North Carolina Justice Center describe the state of the economy for working families in their respective states. The reports find the outlook in these two states, as in many others, to be grim. In North Carolina, levels of employment were lower in 2011 than at the beginning of the decade, and the jobs deficit for the state was calculated at over 500,000 in the summer of this year. In West Virginia, the state finds itself with an unemployment rate is nearly double what it was at the beginning of the recession, with the unemployment rate for African-Americans at 18.9 percent in 2010, more than twice the rate for whites.
State Health Insurance Exchange Legislation: A Progress Report — This report from the Commonwealth Fund surveys the latest status of state health insurance exchange legislation under the Affordable Care Act. The report includes a helpful 50-state map showing the progress in different states towards implementation of the exchanges, planned to come on line in 2014.
Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010 — This annual report from the U.S. Census Bureau on poverty and median wages in the United States revealed an increasingly downwardly mobile middle class. The figures for 2010 showed that “median household income declined, the poverty rate increased and the percentage without health insurance coverage was not statistically different from the previous year.” Specifically, real median household income in in 2010 was $49,445, down 2.3 percent from 2009, and the nation's poverty rate in 2010 was 15.1 percent, up from 14.3 percent in 2009 ─ a third consecutive annual increase. In all, 46.2 million people found themselves in poverty in America 2010, up from 43.6 million in 2009 ─ troublingly, the largest number in the 52 years for which poverty estimates have been published.
The 10 Numbers You Need to Know About E-Verify: What It Will Cost Employers, Employees, and Taxpayers — This important fact sheet from the Center for American Progress outlines the devastating cost of the E-Verify immigration enforcement system on jobs and the economy. Specifically, the report notes that $17.3 billion in federal revenue that will be lost over the next 10 years due to mandatory E-Verify, due to undocumented workers moving off the books and not paying taxes as they do currently. Additionally, the report notes that only E-Verify’s success rate at catching unauthorized workers is 46 percent — the system currently fails to detect unauthorized workers more than half of the time.
Improving Job Quality: Direct Care Workers in the US - The Center for Economic and Policy Research reports that direct care is one of the major economic growth sectors, but that it has been largely ignored in industrial and economic policy. From 2007-2011, the overall direct care workforce grew by 7% and homecare grew by an astounding 20%. However, the overwhelmingly female and minority workforce suffers from low wages and poor working conditions due to inadequate regulation and labor standards. CEPR argues that an appropriate industrial policy is needed and should focus on improving employer practices, professionalizing the workforce through training and career ladders, and collective bargaining.
The State of the Unions in 2011: A Profile of Union Membership in Los Angeles, California, and the Nation- This report published by the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment points out the corrosive effect of continuing job losses and anemic job growth on union membership. Now at 11.8% nationally, unionization rates have not been so low since the Great Depression, creating further downward pressure on wages. Researchers point out the pronounced gender gap that government job cuts will have on women, who make up a larger portion of the public sector workforce.
The Job that Didn’t Disappear—Caregiving: Helping families keep their current jobs - This brief by the North Carolina Justice Center illustrates the need for state policies like paid sick days and paid family leave to meet the care needs of the elderly and children, and to balance the demands of work and family on today’s workforce. NCJC reports that 1.2 million North Carolinians are either employed as caregivers or have a major role in caregiving for a family member suffering from chronic illness. With nearly half of North Carolina workers lacking access to paid sick leave, the strain on caregivers and the health implications for those they care for are severe.
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