Enacting a Comprehensive Jobs Plan
Our nation’s infrastructure is in critical condition. A 2014 report by the American Society of Civil Engineers graded Georgia’s infrastructure a C, with improvements desperately needed in several areas.
We can address that problem and create millions of great jobs fixing our roads and bridges, building the smart energy grid that we’ll need to fight climate change, ensuring access to high-speed internet for all communities, and ensuring that as our population ages, there are people who will work as home health aides to care for them.
Throughout the 10th District, people on both the left and right sides of the political spectrum believe infrastructure is a high priority, and it takes different forms in different communities. In Athens and Eatonton, building affordable housing is a critical concern. In Madison and Washington, there’s an urgent need for broadband infrastructure. District residents have concerns about the condition of our schools, hospitals, roads, and bridges. We can tackle these issues and stimulate the economy by putting people to work at a living wage with a full range of benefits--all while doing the work our communities need most.
Currently, cities, counties, and states must compete for infrastructure from the same pot, no matter the critical necessity of the project. We should be able to take the federal funding available for infrastructure and target that funding to rural areas and areas where unemployment is greater than 2 percent of the national average.
Beyond building and repairing structures, we must also attend to our human infrastructure by hiring more people to provide vital services, including home care workers, teachers, and early childhood educators The key to making our community investments work is targeted, hyperlocal funding aimed at underinvested areas.
With the decline of traditional employment relationships in the United States, it’s time to reconsider how employees earn and receive the benefits of employment. The increase in contracting, temporary and on-call work, freelancing and the gig economy means that employees need more flexibility.
A system of portable benefits would allow worker protections, healthcare, and retirement to remain consistent as workers transition to new jobs. Portable benefits remove much of the strain on workers and employers, allows for increased flexibility and productivity, and increasing the worker’s financial security. Time and again, employers and employees in the 10th District tell me that if they did not have to worry about the cost of benefits, they would be able to make more investments in the local economy.
Over the past decades, our country has become richer and richer, and the wealthy have gotten much wealthier. But for most of us, our wages have stagnated while our expenses keep going up. It doesn’t have to be that way. Everyone should all benefit from the prosperity we all work hard to create.
Every worker deserves a living wage. To accomplish a wage increase without a corresponding spike in inflation, most economists advocate a gradual approach. However, the need is immediate. Therefore, I advocate a program of tax credits to small family businesses that would decrease over 10 years as the economy adjusts. I also believe that we should more strongly protect consumers from large fluctuations in the cost of goods.
Equal pay is crucial for all women--no matter their race or age or where they live. Currently, women who work full-time, year-round in the United States are paid just 80 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts, according to a report from the National Women’s Law Center. African-American women earn only 63 cents to the dollar; Latinx women earn 54 cents, it is 59 cents for Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women, and for Native women, it is 57 cents. Moreover, while Asian women are typically paid 87 cents to the dollar for full time, year-round work, the gap in wages can be much higher depending on their country of origin.
When women earn equal pay for equal work, not only does it uplift women, it uplifts families and communities. This type of economic justice is crucial to addressing poverty in our country.
There are still 28 states in which you can be fired for being lesbian, gay, or bisexual; in 30 states you can be fired for being transgender. In 2013, more than one in five LGBT adults said they’d faced discrimination in the workplace. Congress must work to unify state policies and end and expressly prohibit this type of discrimination.
The Employment Nondiscrimination Act has been introduced in every Congress since 1994 except the 109th. ENDA would ban employers with at least 15 employees from firing, refusing to hire or discriminating against workers or job applicants on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The law would provide explicit protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people by extending the current non-discrimination law, which outlaws workplace discrimination based on race, skin color, religion, sex, and national origin. ENDA, which has exemptions for religious institutions, came closest to passing in 2013 when the U.S. Senate voted to pass the act; it ultimately failed in the House.
Congress must pass an all-inclusive Employment Nondiscrimination Act to protect members of the LGBT citizens from discrimination in the workplace.
Our country needs trade policies that are fair to American industry and the American worker. We need to make sure that we not only keep our alliances in the world but also that we are able to provide great jobs here at home. We cannot let the lobbied interests determine what’s best for hard-working Americans.
As Democrats, we know that unions have been a bedrock of the party for several generations. Unions are credited with the integration of the workforce and have greatly benefited African-Americans in the public sector by providing an entrance into the middle class following the end of Jim Crow. But in the past few years, we have seen a steep decline in union membership and the waning of workers’ rights that coincides with that. Currently, the union membership rate is roughly 11 percent, with 14.8 million reporting that they belong to a union; in 1983, that number was 20 percent and there were 17.7 million union workers.
Democrats understand that it was the labor unions that helped build our middle class. Organized labor is still a critical way for Americans to work hard and get ahead. We must strengthen and protect the American workforce. One way to do this is to offer a tax credit to offset the cost of union membership. Another way to do this is to fight against the insidiousness of right-to-work legislation that weakens workers’ rights. We are stronger together than we are apart. We must enact legislation that ensures fairness for the American workers and we must work to make sure the current administration doesn’t undo worker protections that have already been established.
Furthermore, as our workforce continues to diversify--edging more toward independent work in this gig economy, we must consider enacting protections and do all we can to stop the abuse of those workers who are classified as “independent contractors.”
An important part of redrawing the blueprints for Main Street success is making sure that small businesses are able to compete. It is essential for business owners to have access to capital, particularly start-up funds.
Start-up capital is vital for entrepreneurs who are looking to get their small businesses off the ground. Access to small loans, in particular, has been an essential part of entrepreneurship. No matter your background, funding for business can be very difficult to obtain, but data shows that minority business owners often face greater obstacles. In towns where manufacturing jobs remain scarce, and there’s little infrastructure to repair, local businesses provide the jobs that help communities thrive. In fact, last year in Georgia, 95 percent of all new businesses were small businesses.
We need to make it easier for small business owners to provide additional employment opportunities, and it's past time to ensure equity in lending. I support legislation like the Small Business Administration Microloan program because we must have a comprehensive, all-of-the-above jobs policy; small business ownership is a part of that equation.