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New Booker Bill Seeks to Establish Model for Federal Jobs Guarantee Program in High-Unemployment Com

Updated: Dec 9, 2018

Legislation is “a powerful step forward” for the idea of a federal jobs guarantee

Press release from U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) - April 20, 2018

Washington, DC – U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has announced that he will introduce legislation that seeks to establish a model federal jobs guarantee program in up to 15 high-unemployment communities and regions across the United States.

The bill, the Federal Jobs Guarantee Development Act, would allow high-need communities to apply to participate in a 3-year pilot program to guarantee the option of employment for all of its residents.

The program would guarantee that adults in participating communities who want to work can do so, in a job that pays a living wage and provides benefits like health insurance, paid sick leave, and paid family leave – all while helping to advance critical local and national priorities that are currently under-provided, like child and elder care, infrastructure, and community revitalization.

“There is great dignity in work – and in America, if you want to provide for your family, you should be able to find a full-time job that pays a fair wage,” Booker said. “Both Martin Luther King, Jr., and President Franklin Roosevelt believed that every American had the right to a job, and that right has only become more important in this age of increasing income inequality, labor market concentration, and continued employment discrimination.

“The federal jobs guarantee is an idea that demands to be taken seriously. Creating an employment guarantee would give all Americans a shot at a day’s work and, by introducing competition into the labor market, raise wages and improve benefits for all workers.

“My bill will seek to create a model federal jobs guarantee program by piloting it in up to fifteen high-unemployment communities across the country. Not only would this have a positive impact on the lives of potentially hundreds of thousands of Americans right away, but the valuable data gathered would help us learn lessons, assess its effectiveness, and perfect the idea.”

Darrick Hamilton, Professor of Economics and Urban Policy at The New School, said, “Senator Booker’s bill represents a powerful step forward for the idea of a federal jobs guarantee, which would provide economic security and mobility for all Americans.”

William Darity, Jr., the Samuel DuBois Cook Professor of Public Policy at Duke University, said, “This bill provides an excellent prelude to a national job guarantee for all Americans. Implementation of a series of demonstration projects creates the opportunity to benefit from the ingenuity and knowledge of local communities in building the most effective program at the national level.”   

Lee Saunders, President of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME): “Ensuring the dignity of a good job with fair pay and benefits to all Americans should be the top priority of our elected leaders. AFSCME applauds Sen. Booker’s leadership in this fight.  We look forward to our work with him to rebuild our communities and expand employment opportunities, while protecting existing jobs and collective bargaining rights for workers.”

Dr. Josh Bivens, Director of Research, Economic Policy Institute, said, “For far too long, concentrated and persistent unemployment has been tolerated as inevitable, rather than seen as a scourge that should be stamped out. This legislation will build the capacity to provide a crucial new tool in the fight against this type of unemployment: hiring people directly to work for the public good. It is a bold and welcome development.”

Laura Tatum, Director of Jobs and Education at the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality, said, “With growing appreciation of how our economy falls short in creating enough jobs for everyone, it makes all the sense in the world to test an ambitious community-based jobs guarantee that would boost employment opportunities, reduce poverty, and help meet community needs.”

Specifically, the Federal Jobs Guarantee Development Act would:

  • Authorize and fund the creation of a 3-year pilot program at the Department of Labor (DOL) to test the promise and impact of a federal job guarantee in up to 15 diverse communities and regions. Sites will be selected based on local need and assets, and jobs to be filled, ensuring that work would advance critical local and national priorities that the private sector under-provides, like child and elder care, infrastructure, and community revitalization.

  • Ensure that every adult with residence in a pilot community may participate in a guaranteed job. Jobs will include a minimum wage phasing in to $15/hour, paid family and sick leave, and health coverage like that enjoyed by Members of Congress.

  • Require that each pilot community creates a “Community Job Bank” website, which will feature high-impact jobs sourced primarily by local communities, as well as Federal agencies, based on their needs and priorities.

  • Expand the Work Opportunity Tax Credit to incentivize private employers to recruit and hire participants out of the pilot program.

  • Authorize a rigorous evaluation of the program’s implementation and impact across a number of metrics, including unemployment rates, private sector wages, safety net spending, and incarceration rates.

The text of the bill can be downloaded here.

Dating back to his days as tenant lawyer, City Council member, and Mayor of Newark, Booker has been a leading voice for economic justice and the fundamental promise that if you work hard in America, America should work for you. As part of this commitment, in the Senate, Booker has been a vocal advocate for cracking down on corporate practices that depress wages and limit opportunity. Last month he introduced a bill – the Worker Dividend Act – targeting the increasing trend of corporations using profits for stock buybacks, instead of raising wages for workers, and in February he introduced a bill to crack down on collusive “no poaching” clauses that are often used by large franchisors to prohibit franchisees from hiring each other’s workers.

Last year, Booker introduced a bill targeting companies that outsource much of their labor costs to contractors and temp workers rather than hiring direct employees. He also pressed antitrust regulators on corporate concentration and the increasing trend of “monopsony” power, which limits worker mobility and depresses wages.

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