To Advance Freedom, We Need to Improve Job Quality.
If you missed the fireworks on the Fourth, Maureen Conway of the Institute’s Economic Opportunities Program is bringing the thunder. “America cannot truly be the Land of the Free,” she says, “until we liberate its working people and enable them to enjoy the fruits of their labor.”
That’s the explosive point of her Independence Day message, where she notes that poverty and precarity are endemic in communities throughout the US, and that real wages haven’t kept pace with profits as the economy has grown.
The problem: “Far too many in the US are still yearning to be truly free—free from want, free from fear—of eviction, job loss, medical bills, debt collectors, of falling off an economic cliff,” writes Conway.
The solution: “To expand freedom,” she says, “we need to improve work.”
- Improve measurement of job quality so we know what and what is not a “secure good job”—and then include that assessment in measurements of national economic health.
- Create an organized, empowered, and engaged workforce by supporting organizations that give workers a voice, and by updating laws to advance worker rights and worker freedom.
- Encourage employee ownership, which not only benefits workers but prioritizes a long-term perspective for the health of the firm and the community.
The precedent: “The US did not build its middle class by sending everyone to college so that they could escape poverty-wage work,” says Conway. “Instead, it achieved this by transforming the jobs in the then-dominant manufacturing sector from dirty, dangerous, and poorly paid jobs into good jobs.”
What’s next: Conway’s post highlights the work that EOP has done to improve jobs. On point #3 in particular, the program recently hosted the Employee Ownership Ideas Forum along with the Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing at Rutgers University. A wealth of great ideas from that two-day forum can be found here.
Frankly, we’re still processing all the energizing discussions we heard at the 2023 Aspen Ideas Festival. Our colleague Rhett Buttle of the Aspen Partnership for an Inclusive Economy, however, has already organized his thoughts for Forbes. As someone who sits at the intersection of business, policy, and politics, he offers five big takeaways which often touch on important inclusive economy issues.
- Rebuilding Trust is Key—Start with Small Business
- Entrepreneurship and Business Leadership is Needed to Solve Problems
- We Must Think About the Future of Work—and the Future of Wealth
- Be Skeptical, but Excited About AI
- A Great American Comeback is Possible
This piece was originally published in APIE’s newsletter ‘The Weekly Slice’. Click here to subscribe.