Gains made in workforce, but obstacles persist

After reading the recent workforce report by Career Builder it’s easy to feel like our nation has mastered the “One step forward, two steps back” move. We have made progress but it’s also clear we have much work to do before every American has an equal shot at sharing in our nation’s economic prosperity.

Career Builder tracked changes in gender, race, and age in 785 occupations from 2001 to 2014. Not surprisingly, there have been shifts across sectors and industries in the last 14 years.  Unfortunately the report reinforces what many Americans feel in their gut: there are still major obstacles making it harder for women, young people, and minorities to advance in industries that have historically provided workers with decent wages and strong benefits.  Warning: what you see below may frustrate you but worry not: we have solutions!

Problem #1: Women are losing ground.

The report found that while there are more women in the workforce today than at any point in U.S. history and women are graduating from university at a higher rate than men; women still lost ground in 48 out of the 50 highest paying jobs in the country and there were actually less women in executive positions in 2014 than in 2001.

Solution: Join a union! As Liz Shuler, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer, recently pointed out:

“Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has shown that the gender wage gap among union members is half the size of the wage gap among non-union workers. In fact, union women working full time earn on overage 90.6% of what their male peers earn while nonunion women working full time are paid 81.3% of what their male peers earn. Union women are 21% more likely than nonunion women to have access to paid sick days and union members enjoy the reliability of fair scheduling”.

Problem #2: 34 is the new 16.

Young workers are facing significant roadblocks in the job market, as well. Many millennials, defined in the report as 22-34 year olds, were pushed out of the post-Recession job market and are landing in service sector jobs historically held by teenagers for part-time and summer work. This trend shows no signs of slowing down, either: more than half of 2014 college graduates landed in jobs that don’t require a college degree.

Solution: Join a union!

Young workers across the country are standing together to demand our government investment in jobs, infrastructure, and innovation to address severe shortages of jobs that provide a living wage and benefits. You can read more about the AFL-CIO Young Worker movement and how to get involved here.

Problem #3: Our workforce is not reflective of our communities

While the report shows some steady increases in racial diversity in the national workforce since 2001; it’s still far from reflective of our diverse population.  This reinforces much of what we’re seeing in California communities; particularly Silicon Valley. In their recent study “Tech’s Diversity Problem”, Working Partnerships USA found:

The numbers show an industry that is far behind the curve when it comes to racial and gender equality. Among the companies who have released data – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Google and eBay – the portion of their U.S.-based tech workers who were either Black or Latino ranged between 3 to 4 percent.

By comparison, if we examine the entire workforce in Santa Clara County, the portion of workers who are Black or Latino is 28% – twice the proportion at Apple, and over seven times the proportion at the other tech companies disclosed.

Solution (not a shocker, I’m sure): Join a union!

Silicon Valley Rising, a coalition of labor unions and community allies led by the South Bay Labor Council, launched this year with the goal to address disparities in the Silicon Valley head-on and promote public policies to address wage gaps for all workers in the region. Recent victories for workers in Silicon Valley – tech shuttle bus drivers joining the Teamsters and organizing for a living wage and better working conditions, Apple responding to pressure from workers and United Service Workers West and deciding to hire their security officers in house, and Facebook’s recent decision to provide a living wage and decent benefits for ALL of their employees, suggest coalitions like this help bring change on the horizon. This reinforces what many workers already know: when we stand together we raise standards for all.  

That’s why the California Labor Federation launched the All in to Win plan for organizing in California.  All in to Win is a statewide campaign with the goal of using the collective strength and political power of labor in to promote and support large-scale, strategic organizing campaigns that lift up the Labor Movement and build momentum for other organizing successes around the state.

The Career Builder report highlights problems in our society that need solutions. Let’s stick with what we know works: let’s keep organizing!