Pathways to Action on Good Jobs

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By Maureen Conway, Tyonka Perkins Rimawi, Shelly Steward, and Rachel Korberg

Only 44 percent of the US workforce say they have a good job, and last year 47 million Americans quit their jobs in search of better jobs. And yet, there has been no broadly shared definition of what constitutes a good job. That’s why we’re proud of the work of the Good Jobs Champions Group and this definition, informed by workers, businesses large and small, and a diverse group of community leaders, philanthropists, experts, and advocates. Today, the Statement on Good Jobs has been signed by more than 200 organizations and leaders in business, labor, workforce development, and the nonprofit sector who support this north star vision of what makes a job good. But far more important than any definition is action.

We all have a role to play in advancing good jobs, and the need for action came up repeatedly in our work with stakeholders to build a shared definition. In this post, we lay out a range of actions that can contribute to realizing the vision of good jobs. These examples draw from the wisdom and experiences of members of the Good Jobs Champions Group; extensive research and convening conducted by the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program; the Families and Workers Fund’s and co-funders’ grantmaking and partnerships on the ground; and in-depth workshops and interviews with workers themselves. We recognize that this list is by no means exhaustive and welcome additional suggestions; please submit your ideas here.

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Across these actions, a common truth emerges: working to improve job quality is not only the right thing to do; it’s also smart policy and smart business. For example, companies that have embraced many of the elements of our good jobs definition have experienced outcomes including attractive financial returns and impressive growth, talent retention far above industry norms, and increased health and safety—including fewer deaths due to COVID-19 in health care settings. Policies, government delivery practices, and training programs that have centered job quality have helped to raise hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty and economic hardship and into better jobs.

Each strategy, on its own, would be insufficient to reach our good jobs goals; there is no one “silver bullet” that will make all jobs good jobs. We need complementary approaches across sectors and organizations to achieve our good jobs goals. Everyone has a role to play.

Below we organize ideas for action by potential role. But we also recognize that many of us play multiple roles. For example, providers of workforce development services may also be employers; policy making is not decided by elected officials on their own, but can be influenced by constituents’ engagement on policy issues. We hope you’ll consider all the roles that may apply to you, and let us know if there are others we should consider as we build this movement for good jobs.

  • Conduct an analysis of employee compensation against local living wage levels, such as by using the MIT Living Wage Calculator or partnering with the Worker Financial Wellness Initiative to access technical and peer support. Act on findings and raise pay and benefits.
  • Invest in and build opportunities for employees’ growth and advancement, such as by providing transparent career pathways and accessible, evidence-supported training and education opportunities.
  • Examine and acknowledge any challenges with racial, gender, or other inequities in pay, advancement, and/or representation. Set goals to eliminate these inequities, and measure and track progress. In a country with deeply entrenched racial, gender, and other inequities, firms seeking to disrupt them will need to continually innovate and assess their own progress on recruitment, hiring, pay, and leadership, as well as disaggregate and disclose workforce data.
  • Welcome workers’ collective voices and power and embrace their potential to improve the workplace.
  • If your business engages in policy advocacy, consider how policies could improve the lives of your workers beyond the scope of your business (e.g., advocate for policy to address workers’ child care needs).
  • Explore adopting and expanding profit-sharing and employee ownership to help workers at all levels build wealth.
  • Closely examine work arrangements and vendor relationships to minimize temporary and contract labor, eliminate misclassification, and uphold good jobs across the supply chain.
Workforce Development
  • Conduct a job quality analysis across all sectors of your local labor market, looking at elements in the Good Jobs Champions definition including pay, benefits, and scheduling practices in major industries. Identify the major job quality problems, as well as good job opportunities. Analyze how these job quality problems and opportunities are distributed across race, gender, and other demographics characteristics, and take actions to reduce job quality problems and eliminate disparities.
  • Develop strategies to encourage employers to improve job quality, such as providing assistance to businesses implementing worker voice strategies, connecting businesses to other job quality resources, and sharing data on how job quality improvements contribute to better business performance.
  • Target job placement and training investments to support employers that will embrace and act on the Good Jobs Champions definition.
  • Ensure your messaging and engagement with employers advances the good jobs movement and doesn’t enable low-road practices. For example, avoid implying that workers’ skills are the cause of poor job quality or an adequate justification for poverty-wage work.
  • Improve training completion, placement, and retention by tapping into all available services, wraparound supports, and funding from a wide range of programs, including needs-based payments, child care assistance, career coaching, and transportation assistance.
  • Educate workers about their rights at work and partner with public and private organizations that work to ensure that workers’ rights are protected and respected.
Government and Policymakers
  • Name improving job quality as a major government and legislative priority, on equal footing to the long-established priority of reducing unemployment.
  • Align public spending with job quality and racial equity goals at the local, state, and federal levels by ensuring that public sector jobs embody the elements of the Good Jobs Champions definition and creating provisions for public procurement and contracting that require or incentivize good jobs for businesses seeking contracts.
  • Raise local, state, or federal minimum wage. Eliminate sub-minimum or tipped minimum wages at the state or federal level. Eliminate “poverty by policy design,” i.e., when a government-established minimum wage is below a government-established poverty line for people who are working full-time, as is currently the case for the federal minimum wage for many families.
  • Strengthen and enforce workplace protections at the local, state, and federal levels to ensure all workers have access to safe working conditions free from discrimination, harassment, wage theft, or other violations.
  • Establish and fund effective enforcement for fair scheduling and leave laws at the local, state, and federal levels.
  • Require greater disclosure of human capital data, including wages and working conditions, so that workers can make more informed choices about the jobs they wish to pursue and investors can make more informed choices about the companies they invest in.
Labor and Worker Advocates
  • Continue building movements to advance good jobs for all, such as by continuing to provide information to workers about their rights and protections and strategies to increase their voice and influence at work.
  • Continue to collaborate with government officials broadly on establishing job quality standards, and more specifically on deploying federal recovery and infrastructure investments to advance projects with high job quality standards.
  • Continue to collaborate with employers to establish and improve work-based training opportunities and other internal infrastructure to facilitate learning and career advancement, including transparent career ladders.
  • Ensure grants enable nonprofits to provide good jobs to their own employees. Nonprofits employ 12 million people in the U.S., and yet many do not offer family-sustaining pay or sufficient benefits. Multi-year general operating support grants and allowing for higher administrative costs can help facilitate better jobs.
  • Fund advocates for good jobs, high-quality research on job quality, and cross-sector partnerships that promote good jobs.
  • Create provisions for institutional procurement and contracting that require or incentivize good jobs for vendors seeking contracts from your philanthropy.
Business Educators and Advisors
  • Emphasize the function of labor costs as an investment in business success and long-term value creation, as well as the importance of thoughtful job design in business strategy.
  • Teach techniques for management to partner with employees, including frontline workers, and act on their business insights and needs.
  • Provide advising services that encourage job design approaches that balance business productivity and stability, rather than minimize and externalize labor costs.
  • Teach business models that include employee ownership and contribute to research on how those business forms can contribute to resilient businesses, good jobs, and equitable growth.
  • Invest in businesses that provide good jobs to their employees. In order to do so, collect job quality data on prospective companies and include it as part of the analysis and decision making process.
  • Explore providing technical assistance and/or incentives, such as lower interest rates, to help recipient companies embrace evidence-based good jobs practices.
  • Track how investees that provide good jobs outperform their competitors to help grow the business case for good jobs.
  • Consider employee shared ownership strategies. When acquiring companies, provide employees with grants of stock ownership.

We all have a role in creating a good jobs economy and, given the urgency and potential of this moment, we all must commit to contributing what we can to advance good jobs through our daily work. It is essential for us to break down silos, question habits, consider new ideas, and connect across fields to create a future in which all work is valued. The Good Jobs Champions Group definition and these pathways to action are just the beginning of this renewed movement toward good jobs for all, and we invite you to join us. Please sign on to this shared definition of good jobs here.