Election Day is upon us and the U.S. unemployment rate (U6 metric) remains at 12.8%. Even those who have jobs find accelerating future of work trends daunting.
The investor class is doing just fine in this K-shaped recovery. We seem to have grown numb to headlines of billionaires growing record wealth in 2020, juxtaposed next to those referencing the risk of evictions for up to 40 million people.
Let’s not be numb. Let’s work for change. Let’s be the change we need and do our homework to elect public servants—on both sides of the aisle—who will prioritize working class policies.
It’s no coincidence that we use the same name for people who are applying for a job and people who are running for office: candidates. In the U.S., our political representatives are our employees. Even our president and governors work for us—not the other way around.
Politicians running for office are job applicants, and as their electors or hiring managers, each of us needs to make the right decision regarding who gets the job offer on November 3. This election, we need to “hire” politicians who value workers, and whose policies will help put people back to work and help support pathways to a better tomorrow for everyone.
But what policies should we focus on when evaluating candidates? Here are three areas that can really make a difference in workers’ lives:
Training and education
To succeed in the rapidly paced future of work, we all need to embrace continuous learning. Policies that fund training and educational programs are one of the most effective means to support workers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “earnings increase significantly as a worker’s training and education rise.” But it’s not just about advanced degrees. The past few years have seen a powerful movement by companies to prioritize hiring based on skills over academic degrees as many of their jobs have gone unfilled due to four-year degree requirements. Focusing on skills and not just degrees will help bridge income disparity as well.
The success of these educational and training programs will depend on how they are funded, standardized, and certified. Is this the job of the federal government, states, or private organizations? Once again, your political viewpoint may influence your thinking, but every politician should believe in and uphold the basic truth that these programs are valuable and worthy of attention. We all deserve the opportunity to work toward a better tomorrow, and that means access to training and education.
Minimum and living wage
Even the top U.S. CEOs agree that stakeholders should matter as much as shareholders, as evidenced by last year’s Business Roundtable statement. To walk the walk, we need to bridge income gaps and build pathways to living wages for all U.S. citizens.
Positions on the topic of wages vary greatly. Some support a living wage according to the local cost of necessary expenses such as food, housing, and health care. Some support a federal minimum wage of $15. Others believe the path to better worker pay lies not through wage mandates, but through earned income tax credits or greater corporate tax incentives.
Your own political views may lean one way or another, but the basic question is, does the candidate’s position value workers? Do they have a viable solution to the problem of income inequality that provides a pathway to a better life for American workers? It should be acceptable to have varying views on what will help the most workers in the long run but the objective of helping workers should be articulated in the policy advocacy of those we support.
Half of American workers change jobs every one to five years and millions in the working class do so many times within just one year. Forty-one percent of workers are in contingent positions with no guarantees. To empower these workers and successfully navigate the future of work, we need to rethink the tethering of healthcare and other benefits to permanent employment.
Portable benefits connect benefits to an individual and allow them to better manage a career characterized by multiple employers and income streams. The concept has been endorsed by policymakers in both major parties, from Democratic U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Elizabeth Warren to Republican U.S. Senators Ben Sasse and Todd Young.
Much work needs to be done to address what benefits will be included, who will be eligible, how they will be funded, and who will administer them. But now is the time for change. And we need forward-thinking politicians to explore this evolution.
When we apply for a job, we expect the hiring managers to know what they need and understand what we are offering. Well, now we are all hiring managers and we know we need worker-friendly policies and we should all do our homework and be able to answer how our candidates up and down the ballot address these issues. How politicians handle areas that affect workers over the next decade will greatly influence how we recover from the COVID-19 economic crisis.
When we “hire” or elect our leaders and representatives—whether on the national, state, or local level—let’s make sure they are dedicated to helping create and support the best work life pathways for all of us. Let’s look for dedication, commitment, and even innovative ideas in their platforms. Let’s check out their experience to see if they know how to work with others to achieve success. Perhaps if we hire right, America can do more than recover what we had. We can soar to new heights.
Fred Goff is the founder and CEO of Jobcase, an online platform that helps millions of working people find community support, self-improvement tools, and jobs.