Workforce Development

To Save The American Dream, We Have To Change How We Think About Work

March 15, 2017  • Future of Work Initiative

A recent article in Fast Company, “To Save The American Dream, We Have To Change How We Think About Work,” by Ben Schiller cites the Aspen Institute’s Future of Work Initiative and the Toward a New Capitalism report as part of describing the need for a new social contract between employers and workers.

According to Schiller, “In the mid-20th century, corporations and unions reached historic deals to effectively share in economic growth. Workers agreed to be loyal and not strike, and companies in turn agreed to pay generous benefits and guaranteed wage increases. But, starting in the 1980s, companies started worrying about productivity and profits, and they began outsourcing ‘non-core’ workers, everyone from janitors and customer support staff. As they replaced in-house workers with contractors, franchises, and on-demand workers, they tended to pay lower wages and offer fewer benefits.

“Meanwhile, the short-termism of Wall Street pressured companies to reduce investment in training and workforce development, which tends to disadvantage workers with fewer skills, who might once have risen up the corporate ladder. ‘While shareholders and management reap their rewards, workers are experiencing less wage growth, less security, and less upward mobility,’ is how a recent bipartisan report from the Aspen Institute puts it.

“Today, we have a lot of fully employed people who are well compensated, but also lots of less-than-fully employed people who aren’t.

“… One way to stop this abuse of this binary system would be to set up portable benefit schemes. These would prorate benefits based on hours worked and allow workers to move between gigs and projects more easily. So, for example, a driver who works for both Uber and Lyft could pick up fractionalized benefits from both and accrue money in an universal account. Several regional construction companies already pay into “multi-employer” plans, and unionists and gig companies have advocated for expanding the model more widely.”

Read Ben Schiller’s full article here. This article also links to Schiller’s previous articles highlighting the Initiative and reviewing the Toward a New Capitalism paper when it was released in January.