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Employment and Jobs

The Promise of Guaranteed Income: A New Tool to Improve Jobs and Empower Workers

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About This Event

Guaranteed income is gaining increasing momentum across the US. The bipartisan idea, which has roots in the nation’s founding, the New Deal, the Nixon Administration, and the Civil Rights Movement, is being piloted in more than 100 demonstration sites across the country. The expanded Child Tax Credit — a guaranteed income for children — and stimulus payments during the pandemic were the largest unrestricted cash payments to families ever on a federal scale. Research shows that guaranteed income can reduce poverty and help families cover basic expenses like food, housing, and child care. Less well understood, however, is the impact guaranteed income can have on work.

Contrary to myths that cash transfers could disincentivize work, guaranteed income may in fact support work and workers. Data from recent pilots has provided strong evidence. In Stockton, CA, for example, recipients were more likely to work full time. What is the possible impact on the labor market more broadly, though, and especially on the quality of jobs? How might the security of a guaranteed income provide workers agency, strengthen competition, and raise the floor for all?

Join us on March 1, from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. EST, for our next virtual event, “The Promise of Guaranteed Income: A New Tool to Improve Jobs and Empower Workers.” We’ll be joined by a panel of experts to discuss how guaranteed income can be a tool to boost worker power and job quality. And read our latest brief on the topic, The Potential of Guaranteed Income to Empower Workers and Improve Job Quality, discussing these possibilities.


I enjoyed hearing @roybahat (@BloombergBeta), @MayorSiddiqui (@CambMA), @SmileyJWJ (@jwjnational), @dorianwarren (@CommunityChange), and @nataliefoster (@EconomicSecProj) #talkopportunity about guaranteed income.

A guaranteed income can give workers the agency to leave low-quality jobs and pursue better opportunities, which could strengthen competition and raise the floor for all. Learn more via @AspenJobQuality and guests.

Research has dispelled the myth that guaranteed income disincentivizes work. But what’s the impact on the labor market and #jobquality? Hear from @AspenJobQuality and special guests.

The idea of a guaranteed income has a long history in the US — at the founding, the New Deal, the Civil Rights movement, the Nixon administration, and the pandemic. What role can it play in the #futureofwork?

Video: Guaranteed Income, #JobQuality, & Worker Power, feat @roybahat (@BloombergBeta), @MayorSiddiqui (@CambMA), @SmileyJWJ (@jwjnational), @dorianwarren (@CommunityChange), and @nataliefoster (@EconomicSecProj).


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Roy Bahat @roybahat
Head of Bloomberg Beta @BloombergBeta

Roy Bahat is the head of Bloomberg Beta, an early-stage venture capital firm that was the first to focus on the future of work and the first to focus on artificial intelligence. He also serves on the faculty at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, where he teaches “Unions and Otherwise: Leading an Organized Workforce.”

Roy chairs the newly-formed Aspen Business Roundtable on Organized Labor, convening “labor open” business leaders to explore new ways of relating to organized labor. Roy was a commissioner on the California’s Future of Work Commission, following work he did with New America to understand the long-term effect of technology on work in America. He was named one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business, has served in government, and led a nonprofit in addition to his work at established corporations and starting a company.

He serves on the board or as an advisor to several nonprofits, including the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, the Economic Security Project, and the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Roy graduated from Harvard College, where he ran the student public service nonprofit. He was a Rhodes Scholar.


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Sumbul Siddiqui @MayorSiddiqui
Mayor of Cambridge, Massachusetts @CambMA

Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui is currently serving her third term on the Cambridge City Council and second as mayor of Cambridge. Mayor Siddiqui immigrated to the United States from Karachi, Pakistan, at the age of two, along with her parents and twin brother. She was raised in Cambridge affordable housing at the Rindge Towers and Roosevelt Towers and attended Cambridge Public Schools. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in public policy from Brown University, Mayor Siddiqui served as an AmeriCorps fellow at New Profit, a then-Cambridge-based organization dedicated to improving social mobility for families. Upon earning her law degree from Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law, she moved home to practice as a legal aid attorney with Northeast Legal Aid.

Her priorities as mayor include increasing affordable housing, supporting local businesses, improving Cambridge Public Schools, and leading Cambridge through the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Mayor Siddiqui launched the Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund, which has raised over $5 million to help individuals, small businesses, and nonprofit organizations. She also started Cambridge RISE, one of the first guaranteed income pilots in the country, and is currently working on a $22 million expansion to provide all families in poverty with a guaranteed income.

Mayor Siddiqui, who serves as chair of the school committee, has promoted equitable access to education for Cambridge families by increasing scholarship funding for low-income children to attend high-quality preschools and by implementing a children’s savings account program. Mayor Siddiqui looks forward to continuing to make Cambridge a more equitable and civically engaged community.


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Erica Smiley @SmileyJWJ
Executive Director, Jobs With Justice @jwjnational

Erica Smiley is the executive director of Jobs With Justice. A longtime organizer and movement leader, Smiley has been spearheading strategic organizing and policy interventions for Jobs With Justice for nearly 15 years. Prior to taking up her current position with the organization, Smiley served as organizing director for Jobs With Justice, developing campaigns that resulted in transformative changes to how working people organize and are civically engaged at their workplaces and in their communities. During her tenure at Jobs With Justice, Smiley has served in numerous leadership capacities, including as campaigns director and as senior field organizer for the Southern region.

Serving as one of the lead architects, Smiley has been instrumental in developing the strategic vision of Jobs With Justice to build power for impacted working people through expanding their collective bargaining power as one way to redefine and claim their democracy, while addressing issues of inequality and poverty. This includes founding the Advancing Black Strategists Initiative and co-convening a national strategy for essential workers.

Smiley co-authored “The Future We Need: Organizing for a Better Democracy in the 21st Century” with Sarita Gupta. She has authored several related articles in the New Labor Forum, Dissent Magazine, the Journal on Class, Race and Corporate Power, The Labor Education and Research Association, and other publications lifting strategic organizing, movement building, direct action, and discourse as core strategies for advancing work in this arena. As one of the few queer Black women leaders in the labor movement, Smiley has helped to seed numerous initiatives that position and prioritize the demands and voices of vulnerable working people in socioeconomic and political decisions that directly and indirectly impact their individual lives, families, and communities. As a seasoned organizer, she has been a vocal advocate for mobilizing our movements to be aligned around a common agenda for working families.

Prior to joining Jobs With Justice, Smiley organized with community groups and unions such as the Tenants and Workers Support Committee (now Tenants and Workers United) in Virginia and SEIU Local 500 in Baltimore. Her career in social and economic justice began in the reproductive justice field, serving as national field director for Choice USA (now United for Reproductive and Gender Equity—URGE), where she received the Young Women of Achievement Award in 2004.

Her passion for advancing innovations that prioritize the South is evident in the boards she serves on today and in the past, including the board of the Highlander Research and Education Center, based in Tennessee, a catalyst for grassroots organizing and movement building in Appalachia and the South, and the leadership council of the Workers Defense Project, based in Texas. She is on the board of the SEIU Education and Support Fund and the Workers Lab, and she participates in the Bargaining for the Common Good advisory committee. In 2019, Rutgers named Smiley a Women in Labor Leadership Empower Fellow.

Smiley is originally from Greensboro, North Carolina, where she is a proud product of public schools — ultimately graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She currently resides in New Jersey, alongside her partner Amanda and their daughter.


Photo of Dorian Warren

Dorian Warren @dorianwarren
Co-President, Community Change @CommunityChange; Co-Founder and Co-Chair, Economic Security Project @EconomicSecProj

A progressive scholar, organizer, and media personality, Dorian Warren has worked to advance racial, economic, and social justice for more than two decades. Like the organizations he leads, Warren is driven by the innate conviction that only social movements — led by the people most affected by racial, economic, gender, and social injustice — can change their communities and public policies for the better.

Warren is co-president of Community Change, an organization founded in 1968 by civil rights, labor, and community leaders to honor the memory of Robert F. Kennedy’s fight to end poverty in America. He is also the co-founder and co-chair of the Economic Security Project, an innovative social impact organization that has already shifted the national conversation around cash, economic power, and economic security. And he is the co-host of the “Deep Dive” podcast on “The Takeaway” with Melissa Harris-Perry.

Warren taught for over a decade at the University of Chicago and Columbia University, where he was co-director of the Columbia University Program on Labor Law and Policy. He’s the co-author of “The Hidden Rules of Race,” co-editor of “Race and American Political Development,” and author of numerous academic articles. He also worked at MSNBC, where he was a contributor, fill-in host for “Melissa Harris-Perry” and “Now with Alex Wagner,” and host and co-executive producer of “Nerding Out” on MSNBC’s digital platform, now Peacock. He was previously a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and serves on the boards of Working Partnerships USA, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Employment Law Project, the Model Alliance, and the Nation magazine.

As a commentator on public affairs, Warren has appeared regularly on television and radio, including NBC Nightly News, ABC, MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, BET, BBC, NPR, Bloomberg, and NY1, among other outlets. He has also written for the Nation, the Huffington Post, Newsweek, Salon, the Washington Post, the New York Times, Medium,, and Boston Review.



Photo of Natalie Foster

Natalie Foster @nataliefoster
President and Co-Founder, Economic Security Project @EconomicSecProj; Fellow, Future of Work Initiative at the Aspen Institute @AspenFutureWork

Natalie Foster is the president and co-founder of the Economic Security Project, a network dedicated to advancing a guaranteed income in America and reining in the unprecedented concentration of corporate power, and she is a senior fellow at the Aspen Institute Future of Work Initiative. Prior to that, she was the CEO and co-founder of Rebuild the Dream, a platform for people-driven economic change, with Van Jones.

Foster served as digital director for President Obama’s Organizing for America and the Democratic National Committee. She built the first digital department at the Sierra Club and served as the deputy organizing director for She’s been awarded fellowships at the Institute for the Future, Rockwood Leadership Institute, and New America California, and is a board member of the California Budget and Policy Center, the global foundation, and Liberation in a Generation, a project to close the racial wealth gap.

Opportunity in America

Opportunity in America, an event series hosted by the Economic Opportunities Program, considers the changing landscape of economic opportunity in the US and implications for individuals, families, and communities across the country. The series highlights the ways in which issues of race, gender, and place exacerbate our economic divides, and ideas and innovations with potential to address these challenges and broaden access to quality opportunity.

We are grateful to Prudential Financial, the Surdna Foundation, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, Bloomberg, and the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth for their support of this series.

Learn More

The Economic Opportunities Program advances strategies, policies, and ideas to help low- and moderate-income people thrive in a changing economy. Follow us on social media and join our mailing list to stay up-to-date on publications, blog posts, events, and other announcements.

Event information
Wed Mar 1, 2023
2:00pm - 3:30pm EDT