ONE COMMONWEALTH AGENDA
REIMAGINING WORK & OPPORTUNITY
Imagine a Commonwealth where the opportunity to participate in a dynamic economy is spread broadly from our urban core to our rural and coastal communities. Where our success is measured not only by aggregate GDP and unemployment, but also by the quality of life of individual workers. Where our goal is not simply to get people jobs, but to get them good jobs that are family sustaining, include core labor protections, and have clear career paths for growth and prosperity. Where, as Lincoln once said, we will have a “just and generous, and prosperous system, which opens the way for all – gives hope to all, and energy, and progress, and improvement of condition for all.”
For too long, we have been presented with false choices: Prospering businesses or better wages and working conditions. Financial stability or quality of life. Long commutes or lack of job opportunity. Concentrations of wealth or faltering GDPs.
It doesn’t have to be this way. That is why my agenda will prioritize: building a good jobs economy for everyone; protecting worker rights, wages and voice; ensuring prosperity is inclusive for all; and helping workers connect to, and persist in, pathways to opportunity.
An Allen administration will invest in the foundations of a One Commonwealth economy that both spurs business formation and recruitment and builds a good jobs foundation that offers stability and broad participation in our state’s economic growth, fully incorporating members of minority groups, women, and low to middle-income people.
The agenda below is the outcome of community collaboration at every level. It was developed in discussion with union and business leaders, employees and employers, and policy experts across the state. Most importantly, we listened to so many of our fellow citizens who were working tirelessly while still struggling to make ends meet. Thanks to their wisdom and insight, we have a jobs agenda that will significantly improve the lives of millions of Bay Staters. But work to refine this agenda remains: we’ll continue to engage with communities across Massachusetts so that all voices are heard in our efforts to knit the Commonwealth together.
This agenda is just the beginning of the process. As we seek stakeholder engagement across the Commonwealth in the months ahead, the next critical ingredient we need is YOU. Together, we can ensure the growth of our economy and the shared, inclusive benefits of that prosperity.
My first job was bussing tables in a restaurant. After a “training” period, in which I found the working conditions abusive, I quit. I was never paid for that work. In a job as a paralegal during college, my boss followed up on a lunch meeting with an invitation to head to a hotel room. That was the end of that employment and mentorship relationship. In a job on an archaeological excavation after college, I witnessed abuse of other employees that led me to quit and to share information about what I had witnessed with all employees; this resulted in a leadership transition program.
But I also had the chance to work in college as an electric meter reader, a unionized role for Southern California Edison. There I experienced decent working conditions and strong protections for workers. Achieving health relationships in the workplace is critical to the well-being of workers and families and better for firm productivity.
These experiences showed me places where the good of workers and of firms has come apart, as well as places where they come together. This makes the difference between whether workers thrive or suffer.
BUILD A GOOD JOBS ECONOMY FOR EVERYONE
For the last thirty years, economic policy has focused on increasing productivity without paying much attention to how our approaches to productivity have affected the health and well-being of workers. But no economy can be healthier than the people who power it. The productivity of our economy depends on workers being able to participate in production in ways that keep them, their families, and their communities healthy.
The Solution: Setting the terms of a good jobs economy
It’s time to start thinking about economic productivity and labor prosperity as united – rather than competing – goals. We can, and must, build pathways that connect people to the good-paying jobs of today and tomorrow while also fueling the Commonwealth’s economic strength and resiliency. We do this by building a good jobs economy. This requires: setting the terms of a good jobs economy; protecting worker rights, wages and voices; and growing and diversifying our state’s economy to increase the availability of good jobs.
- First, we will make good jobs our top economic goal. Focusing on our state’s overall “GDP” is not enough to measure whether we are building an inclusive and dynamic economy that connects all to opportunity and security. In addition to measuring the overall output of our state’s economy, we also need to track how well we are doing at creating good jobs and at ensuring that they are available across the whole Commonwealth. A good job enables a middle-class existence, by a region’s standards, with enough income for housing, food, transportation, education, and other family expenses, as well as some saving. More broadly, good jobs provide workers with clear career paths, possibilities of self-development, flexibility, responsibility, and fulfillment.
- To make this our goal, we have to make our first mission the development of metrics and tools for evaluating our success on this front. While there are some good tools out there, for instance, the job quality index developed by Jewish Vocational Services, developing this mission focus and the tools needed to pursue it will require collaboration among business, labor and government under the leadership of an Allen Administration. These metrics should drive decisions at all levels – from the Governor’s Office to the state’s Labor Workforce Boards.
The Solution: Protecting worker rights, wages and voice
- A baseline standard for achieving a good jobs economy is that no one should work without getting paid. An Allen Administration will end wage theft. This should be a bright line for determining whether we have a good jobs economy.
- We will also keep the Commonwealth on track to achieve the $15/hr minimum wage. This includes supporting One Fair Wage to end subminimum wage work in restaurants and to make it possible for tips to be pooled.
- We will ensure all drivers – regardless of immigrant status – have access to licenses so they can connect with job opportunities by passing the Mobility Act
- To improve quality of life and work we will champion predictable scheduling. We can get started on giving people reasonable control of their time with the Predictable Scheduling Act.
- We will also work to increase the representation of labor organizations on local workforce boards to ensure all groups have a seat at the table in increasing equity and access to high quality jobs.
- We will use state-level anti-trust tools to protect worker voice and ensure that employers with excessive power over workers, for instance in the health sector, develop effective structures for worker voice.
- And we will protect gig workers. An Allen administration will work to achieve the classification of tech economy gig workers as employees, not contractors, in order to ensure that gig workers (e.g. for ride hailing apps and delivery services) have benefits, worker voice, and strong wages. We also recognize that other gig workers, for instance, in the arts have suffered significant blows in the pandemic and also need the opportunity to connect to good jobs.
The Solution: Growing and diversifying the stock of good jobs
- To support sustainable jobs and communities, we will grow the state’s green sector. Green jobs are — and should be — a very broad category. When one thinks of green jobs, what first comes to mind are often things such as work in the renewable energy, adaptation, or conservation sectors. And these things are important: to safely phase out fossil fuels, to adapt to rising seas, and to accomplish our goal of a wind and solar economy, these sort of traditional green jobs must be created en masse. According to a 2019 analysis by E2, Massachusetts already employs some 120,000 jobs in renewables, clean vehicles manufacturing, energy efficiency, and more — seventh among the states for total green jobs, and second in solar. Green jobs are already people’s livelihoods. Many of the green jobs created thus far have come from the private sector, and that’s great. But bringing about the workforce needed to decarbonize Massachusetts and bring about a more just and stable future will require the partnership and collaboration of private and public interests at all levels. This may include direct government funding of green employment, public-private efforts to spur green workforce development, and more.
- We will strengthen health care worker pipelines and supports. The health of residents of Massachusetts depends on a strong healthcare workforce. While the health care industry now accounts for 1 in 5 jobs in Massachusetts, critical health care worker shortages limit access to timely, quality care. To address this, the Allen administration will work with workforce development organizations to connect job seekers to jobs in health care settings by, for example, recruiting and retraining workers who have lost jobs in the hospitality industry; and accelerating the build out of innovative approaches to healthcare staffing with good jobs and career ladders. We will also work to raise reimbursement rates to healthcare organizations, including nursing homes, that meet critical quality standards, contingent on those organizations passing on those increases in the form of higher wages to CNAs and LNAs.
- We will also strengthen educator pipelines and supports. The success of our learners in K-12 schools depends on our teaching corps. We have underinvested in the teaching profession and failed to develop the career ladders that lead to success and professional growth for educators. The impacts of COVID have not only produced significant morale challenges throughout the educator workforce but also fully brought to the surface a long-standing need to improve how we recognize the dignity of educators and support the educator profession as fundamental to the health of our society.
- We will support growth of the Commonwealth’s tech sector through a strategic focus on diversifying the tech industry and on developing technologies, including AI, that positively affect the creation of good jobs, for instance, human complementing technologies that will bring jobs to MA and rebalance the table for labor more broadly.
- To diversify the Massachusetts economy we will achieve national leadership in wind energy, including the expansion of the manufacturing and supply chain components of the industry; and expanding on the innovations in advanced manufacturing developed during the pandemic to further accelerate diversification of our economy and the creation of new jobs.
- We will support the growth of employee-owned businesses. While employee-owned businesses are a small part of actual employment, they provide an important avenue for job creation and good jobs that provide benefits and support wealth-building. We will work to expand this employment category. We can start from the Grow Jobs Through Employee Ownership Act which “helps entrepreneurs start more employee-owned businesses while making it easier for existing businesses to become employee-owned and take advantage of newly available federal small business loans targeted to these businesses.” https://www.americasgoals.org/1c/employee-owned#model
- Finally, we will invest in, and support, local businesses by empowering MassHire to ensure that the provision of services and inputs to local firms (help with business plans and technology, marketing assistance, etc.) is better integrated with workforce development programs. Good jobs require good firms. Training and workforce development have to go hand in hand with creating the conditions for local investment and capacity development for small firms.
ENSURE PROSPERITY IS INCLUSIVE FOR ALL
For too long, we have focused on aggregate GDP and unemployment as our measures of success. The pandemic, however, laid bare the long-standing inequities hiding under the surface of this approach, disproportionately impacting low-skill, low-wage jobs in which women and people of color are overrepresented. At the same time, we have accepted concentrations of wealth and prosperity as the cost of economic success, focusing on strategies that help booming areas boom more, while leaving others – particularly in rural and coastal communities – shut out from opportunity and security.
It’s time for us to organize our economic policy from the ground up by asking what opportunities can help people live the lives they seek while also contributing to the greater good of a healthy economy – and how can we ensure these opportunities are equitable and inclusive. Our good jobs economy will, therefore, include tailored supports and strategic investments that broadly spread opportunity to participate in an inclusive, dynamic economy; recognizing that inclusion is the motor of growth.
- We will convert the current administration’s Skills Cabinet into an Opportunity with Equity Cabinet. This cabinet will bring the Secretaries of Education, Labor, and Economic Development together to achieve Commonwealth-wide coordination for workforce opportunity, development, and equity. The goal will be to ensure that we are connecting all residents to the good jobs of today and tomorrow in ways that deliver to workers an experience of opportunity and dignity, not instrumentalization.
- To support minority and women-owned businesses, we will invest in capacity building for MWBE small business development. We will also help drive more dollars to small and diverse business by fixing the state’s ineffective approach to contracting with minority businesses and securing commitments from anchor institutions in the Commonwealth, including universities and hospitals, on diversification of contracting and procurement. We will also commit to working with unions to establish project-labor agreements for state projects that advance equity and inclusion.
- We will drive strategic rural renewal through creation of an office for rural policy in the governor’s office that will work with rural communities to develop a rural renewal strategic plan.
- We will spread the footprint of opportunity by completing broadband infrastructure in the Commonwealth and using the rise of remote work to encourage moving the location of high tech work further out from the Boston core while also investing in training to close the digital divide.
- We will ensure that the growing cannabis industry supports community-wealth building in communities that have been most harmed by the war on drugs.
- And importantly, we will lead by example. Following the example of Treasurer Goldberg, and her work to diversify her workforce and achieve an inclusive and high-morale work culture, we will work across state agencies to diversify our workforce and set a good jobs standard for public employment.
HELPING WORKERS CONNECT TO, AND PERSIST IN, PATHWAYS TO OPPORTUNITY
It’s not enough just to expand good jobs. People need to be able to connect to those good jobs. But our current broken infrastructure keeps too many people disconnected from opportunity, whether it be a lack of reliable internet that keeps people from pursuing new remote work prospects or the lack of reliable public transportation that keeps people from getting to work on time each day. Even when residents can connect with training or employment, we often fail to provide the supports people need to persist in those opportunities, causing, for example, women to drop out of the workforce because of the lack of reliable childcare. These barriers also slow business and job formation, as employers find it hard to maintain a workforce when workers can’t piece together the foundation of a sustainable existence.
We need investments in good homes, rides, schools, and health to give everyone access to the motors of growth and to support quality of life options that make it possible for people to prosper and for businesses to build and retain a vibrant workforce. The job-supportive policies in our building-block agendas include:
- Investments in housing to ensure all residents have safe, healthy, and secure places to live. Our agenda prioritizes increasing affordable housing, supporting tenants’ rights, supporting first-time homeowners, ending housing insecurity, and creating a culture of beauty and sustainability in density. We will deliver a strategic plan to increase affordable housing Commonwealth-wide. See our housing agenda here.
- Affordable regional and Commonwealth-wide transportation networks through investments in high speed, high performance, decarbonized and renewable energy transportation systems, smart bus systems, electric vehicle infrastructure, and abundant safe transportation options for bicycles, electric bikes, and scooters. We will also pursue congestion pricing and fare-free MBTA access for low-income workers. We will deliver a ten year plan to end the congestion problem.
- Educational opportunities that set every learner up for success, starting from universal early education. This is the best path to universally accessible childcare. Our education agenda further includes investments in green and healthy school building upgrades, increased behavioral health resources and health personnel in schools, and increased funding for higher education so that students can graduate debt free.
Housing, health, transportation, schools, jobs, justice, climate, community, and empowerment. These are the pieces of a livable life, and they have to fit together for life to be livable. What’s more, every person in Massachusetts deserves not just a livable life but an opportunity to build their best life. These are the building blocks every single one of us needs in order to have a foundation to stand on and live a healthy life. A good job should give people clear career paths, possibilities of self-development, flexibility, responsibility, and fulfillment. Building a good jobs economy means first asking what people dream, imagine, and desire – and building the foundation from there.