The American workplace is undergoing substantial change. Increasingly, employers are less interested in hiring full-time employees. Instead, they want to use what they call contractors, whether the title is accurate or not. While unemployment is low, the quality and pay for many of these newer jobs is dubious at best.
There is a realization that steps need to be taken if hardworking Americans are going to be able to support themselves in the years to come. A new report by the Center for American Progress (CAP) calls for the creation of a “Marshall Plan for America,” one that would challenge the effects of reduced bargaining power, globalization and changes in technology to ensure workers can succeed in the 21st century.
“In the aftermath of an election in which rural and urban voters came to view one another with suspicion while both suffered from decades of disinvestment, the time is ripe for a policy agenda and accompanying message that underscores the common cause among struggling Americans and outlines solutions that unite them,” CAP wrote.
How does that happen? By creating a permanent public employment and infrastructure program modeled after the Great Depression-era Works Progress Administration. Such an effort would raise wages for those without a college degree plus provide necessary services that currently are falling to the wayside due to a lack of government funds.
It is estimated that some 4.4 million jobs could be created paying $15 an hour. Not only would those dollars reduce the costs of several social welfare programs such as food stamps and unemployment, it would increase tax revenue as those earned dollars are spent as part of the economy. And businesses would benefit from additional sales as well.
By creating tighter labor markets, the CAP proposal would also have the effect of putting upward pressure on wages. That would raise the wages of all workers, allowing them to better support their families’ needs.
Income inequality is a top challenge of these times. A bipartisan collection of elected leaders increasingly understand this. More needs to be done to help low-wage workers. Working full time is no guarantee of being able to support oneself or a family, giving the stagnant state of wages for many. That’s why the Teamsters and other unions have been involved in the Fight for $15 to raise pay.
But the rules under which the system currently works need to be altered. Contractor work is not the solution unless the U.S. wants to increase misclassification and wage theft. Just ask XPO workers about how that is working out for them.
Working Americans should be able to make ends meet. Only then will the U.S. be a nation that works for everyone, not just the privileged few.