New Report Lays Out 10 Ways To Rebuild the Middle Class

Progress States Network and over 20 other organizations have released a fantastic new report this morning - “10 Ways to Rebuild the Middle Class for Hard Working Americans: Making Work Pay in the 21st Century.”

Here is their statement regarding the release of the report:

New York, NY – With Census Bureau statistics released this week showing inequality rising and median household income declining to the lowest level in 16 years, Progressive States Network joined more than 20 of America’s leading organizations on work and the economy today in releasing a plan outlining 10 specific ways to rebuild America’s middle class. The new report recommends concrete proposals to strengthen the economy for the long-term by creating good jobs and addressing the economic insecurity that has spread to millions of U.S. families.

The report, “10 Ways to Rebuild the Middle Class for Hard Working Americans: Making Work Pay in the 21st Century,” arrives on the heels of several recent studies that also indicate the economy is headed toward even greater inequality as middle-class jobs become more and more scarce.

It also comes in advance of the release later this year of Progressive States Network’s 2013 “Blueprint for Economic Security,” a multi-issue plan spanning over 20 state policy options — many of which are also highlighted in “10 Ways to Rebuild the Middle Class” — that aims to help protect the economic security of families from further attacks while identifying and disseminating successful ways to frame, communicate, and advance state economic policies that have already proven effective and popular.

The recommendations released in “10 Ways to Rebuild the Middle Class” include the following steps to make today’s jobs better and tomorrow’s jobs good:

  1. MAKE EVERY JOB A GOOD JOB. The majority of the high-growth jobs in America — retail sales, home health and personal aides and food prep workers — pay very low wages and provide little chance of promotion. A Department of Labor proposal — just one of the fixes for this problem — would expand protections to the nation’s 2.5 million home care workers, who work in one of the fastest-growing job categories but are excluded from minimum wage and overtime laws.
  2. FIX THE MINIMUM WAGE. The Fair Minimum Wage Act would restore the lost value of the minimum wage, index it to inflation and raise the tipped-worker wage — increasing take home pay for 28 million hardworking Americans and boosting consumer spending and job creation.
  3. SAVE GOOD PUBLIC AND PRIVATE JOBS. Federal, state and local governments have shrunk their workforces by 580,000 since the recession ended in 2009. And the private sector has shipped 1.2 million jobs overseas since 2008. Federal funds should be provided to state and local governments to hire back teachers, firefighters and other public employees. And the government should end tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas.
  4. ENSURE HEALTH AND RETIREMENT SECURITY. Strengthen the partnership between employers, workers and the public by implementing the Affordable Care Act, protecting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and establishing new retirement accounts for those workers who rely now just on Social Security.
  5. UPHOLD THE FREEDOM TO JOIN A UNION. Outdated laws and corporate-driven policies have severely weakened the ability of workers to freely join together and collectively bargain. These trends have driven down wages and benefits. Fix the National Labor Relations Act to create a fair process for workers to choose union representation and restore the freedom to bargain collectively.
  6. MAKE THE MODERN WORKPLACE PRO-FAMILY. The rules of the workplace haven’t kept pace with the changing economy. Earned sick days and affordable family leave are indispensable to the health of today’s workforce, our communities and economy. The Healthy Families Act would give 90% of private sector workers (in businesses of 15 or more) the ability to earn up to seven paid sick days each year to deal with personal or family illness or seek medical care.
  7. STOP WAGE THEFT. By paying workers less than the minimum wage, not paying for overtime and sometimes not paying workers at all, unscrupulous employers are cheating workers and dragging down wages for the entire low-wage workforce.
  8. REQUIRE THAT YOUR BOSS BE YOUR EMPLOYER. More and more companies are hiring permanent temp workers, paying temps and part-timers at a lower rate and giving fewer or no benefits, and misclassifying employees as independent contractors. The Department of Labor and IRS should vigorously enforce the laws meant to stop employers from mistreating actual employees.
  9. GIVE UNEMPLOYED JOB-SEEKERS A REAL, FRESH START. Reauthorize federal unemployment insurance for 2013 and pass the Fair Employment Opportunity Act to end job market practices that discriminate against unemployed job seekers.
  10. TOUGHEN LAWS PROTECTING WORKER SAFETY AND HEALTH. Millions of workers are injured or made sick on the job every year, and thousands die as a result. Enacting the Protect American Workers Act, for example, would modernize the Occupational Safety and Health Act to improve work safety and enforcement.

“It’s not just the loss of jobs but the loss of good jobs that is eating into the economic security of families in states across the nation,” said Ann Pratt, Executive Director of Progressive States Network. “Keeping state economies going means ensuring that a full time job will pay you enough to support your family and pay for basic needs like food and home expenses. The common-sense steps outlined in this report — things like restoring the minimum wage, stopping wage theft, allowing workers access to paid sick days, and saving both good private and public sector jobs — are a good roadmap for states looking to grow their economies by revitalizing the middle class as they look toward 2013 legislative sessions.”

Earlier this year, Progressive States Network released a 50-state report showing how wage theft, a growing problem affecting millions of workers across the country and costing states billions of dollars in lost tax revenue, is only starting to be addressed in earnest through state legislation. That report, Where Theft is Legal: Mapping Wage Theft Laws in the 50 States, graded individual states across the broad body of state laws needed to comprehensively address this growing national crime wave, concluding that 44 of the 50 states (plus Washington D.C.) deserve failing grades.

The groups issuing today's report include 9to5 National Association of Working Women, AFL-CIO, American Rights at Work, Blue-Green Alliance, Caring Across Generations, Center for Community Change, Change To Win, Families Values @ Work, Interfaith Worker Justice, Jobs with Justice, Los Angeles Alliance for the New Economy, National Day Labor Organizing Network, National Partnership for Women & Families, National Employment Law Project, Partnership for Working Families, Progressive States Network, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, SEIU, USAction, Wider Opportunities for Women, and Working America.