Today, more than 500 labor leaders, local and state policy makers, community advocates, environmentalists, educators, and job training and economic development professionals came together in San Diego for the annual ‘Building Workforce Partnerships’ Conference, The two-day conference presents a unique opportunity for this diverse group to collectively develop comprehensive strategies to help us restore our economy, revitalize job growth and reduce our carbon footprint, all at the same time.
Sponsored by the California Labor Federation’s Workforce and Economic Development (WED) program, ‘Building Workforce Partnerships’ is ultimately about collaboration – only by working together can labor, business, and government bridge the economic needs of working families and the challenge of sustainable economic growth.
With 12.6% of Californians unemployed, it’s no surprise that this year’s conference is themed “Building the Jobs Recovery”. All six roundtable discussions and 28 workshops at the conference focus on the three major elements of a comprehensive jobs strategy: job creation (especially green job creation), mitigating layoffs and job loss, and innovative job training strategies to prepare workers for high-road careers.
The conference kicked off this morning with a spirited roundtable discussion about how we ended up in this recession, and what needs to be done to get on the path towards sustained economic recovery. From the bank bailout and the stimulus program, to Wall Street reform and the federal deficit, to international trade policies and currency manipulation, to manufacturing and outsourcing, the panelists addressed the full gamut of factors that have brought our economy to where it is today.
There’s no doubt that Wall Street is the primary offender, and passing financial reform is crucial in order to prevent big banks from scamming the American public in order to pad their own pockets. But few realize that there are numerous other policies our government could enact that would play a pivotal role in building the jobs recovery. Robert Kuttner, author and co-founder of the American Prospect, highlighted two policies (which are already being used successfully in other countries) that would restore fairness to American workers and help them compete in the global economy.
We need an active labor market policy to provide wage subsidies, job creation resources and wage replacement until people get back to work. And we also need a robust industrial policy to prevent companies from sending jobs overseas and ensure our trade partners — especially China — are playing by our rules.
Unfortunately, communicating this information to our elected officials and the public is incredibly challenging, with so many misconceptions, rumors and downright lies circulating that it’s nearly impossible to discern the fact from the fiction. Josh Bivens of the Economic Polkicy Institue explained how partisan politics and fear-mongering are mangling the truth behind the federal deficit:
Ideological sway is causing unreasonable fear of inflation and misdiagnoses of where it comes from. People think that the federal deficit is bad thing, but that’s just not true. When unemployment is high as it is right now, we actually need to increase the deficit in order to get people back to work.
Both Kuttner and Bivens emphasized that the most important thing that we as workers can do to create jobs is to let our elected officials know we mean business, by holding them accountable and electing new representatives that are committed to making job creation the top priority.
California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski underscored the role that working people play in the growth of our economy:
Jobs were never priority of economic narrative dominated by Wall Street, and its up to us to change that. Industrialists and financers didn’t build the middle class. Truth is, their primary goal is the make and amass wealth for themselves. It’s the workers who fought hard in tough battles to create and grow our middle class, and these principles hold true in the new economy as well.
Visit http://www.wed-works.org to learn more.