For decades wages have been flat, at best, for low income workers in the United States. For the last twenty years they’ve even been flat for college educated workers.
Over the same period, American companies have expanded and consolidated and recorded record profit margins. Labor’s take-home share of corporate income has declined by more than 10% in the last 40 years. A government by and for the people must work to create an economy that increases the take home pay of its constituents. The decrease in labor’s share of income has no single explanation and increasing it has no single answer. Union membership has decreased, companies have grown larger and more consolidated, non-compete clauses have become more widespread, the minimum wage has been largely stagnant, and industries have used licensing requirements to heighten barriers to entry, among other factors. While many of these phenomena are the result of small changes that seemed sensible in isolation, their cumulative effect has been to increase the power of business over workers.
With wages remaining stagnant, jobs leaving Baltimore, declining union membership, and so many other factors stacked against Baltimore’s workers, many in the 41st district are unable to earn enough money to give themselves and their families the livelihoods they deserve. People working a full time job, let alone two or more jobs, should have no problem raising themselves out of poverty and working towards a middle class life.
Our plan for improved worker pay begins with a statewide fifteen dollar minimum wage that would be implemented at different speeds based on number of employees, whether the company provides health care, and whether most workers are tipped or not. No one working a full week should struggle to make ends meet and clearly business will not make this a reality on their own. We will also work to expand collective bargaining rights so that workers can secure better contracts.
For industries currently underserved by our education system, such as HVAC technicians, I will sponsor legislation to expand apprenticeship programs in Maryland. Apprenticeships that are well constructed increase the workforce relatively quickly and give the unemployed or underemployed a chance to be trained for a good-paying job while also providing employers with a job-ready pool of workers. We will provide grants for industry groups or companies to start or expand apprenticeship programs and encourage the hiring of local workers. We will also support the expansion of and preferential procurement for companies using existing high-quality apprenticeship programs such as those associated with many labor unions.
The proliferation of non-compete clauses in contracts around the country has unfairly weakened workers’ positions as they try to negotiate with their bosses. Maryland should protect workers’ ability to earn more. Many industries have also expanded their use of licensing requirements for workers. There are often legitimate reasons to do so, such as ensuring that workers comply with best practices regarding safety. However, licenses have become so widespread and the requirements so onerous that it has begun to limit the ability of workers to move into new jobs. These workers are unable to climb the economic ladder because they cannot afford licenses and are stuck in lower earning positions. Workers are also unable to chase better opportunities across state lines because more of these industries license workers on a state-by-state basis.
For those unemployed and failed by our education system we need to create a strong adult education program. Philadelphia has led the way in providing educational services to adults by establishing centers all over the city that offer general education and GED services but also provide more specific job training. There are plenty of industries that suffer from a lack of qualified workers, such as nursing, that could be focuses for these centers. The state should, at least, provide money to the city for establishing these programs and taking care of the adults who have been left behind by our current system. One tool we already have in this effort is our community colleges. Baltimore City Community College (BCCC) should be re-imagined as an institution focused primarily on training people for jobs that Baltimore needs. With degree programs that more directly align with Baltimore’s needs BCCC could be an institution helping to get fully employed in quality jobs.
Youth employment, especially during the summer, is a valuable means of getting young people job training while also keeping them busy during the summer. Getting young people a good first job is critical to placing them on a path to success. Getting someone a good first job can provide them with the experience and the skills that they need to become fully employed later in life. Baltimore’s YouthWorks programs and others like it accomplish this goal but have too often been left underfunded. We will use state funds to help programs like this that already exist and encourage the creation of more of them throughout the state.
Baltimore in general, and the 41st District in particular, have been unable to win large infrastructure projects from the state in recent years. We will work with leaders across the state to get projects like State Center, a renovated Pimlico, and a restored Red Line through the General Assembly in a timely manner. During construction these projects hire local firms and get more people in the area fully employed, on top of their long term benefits. Infrastructure projects are a rare area where the state can borrow money up front and we should leverage this ability to increase local hiring in Baltimore and all over the state.
Finally, we need to create a Clean Energy Jobs Corps to expand access to new jobs. Maryland should be seizing the opportunity to lead the way on clean energy and there are many jobs that need doing. Clean jobs are good jobs, they are plentiful, and they can provide workers with the tools they need to escape poverty. After all, homes still need to be insulated, better appliances need installing, solar retrofitting needs to be done, and we need to produce green energy. I would institute a program to give those without jobs the chance to work improving energy efficiency in Maryland.
Reverse the decline of labor’s share of income.
Support organized labor.
Implement $15.00 minimum wage statewide.
Create apprenticeship programs.
Roll back proliferation of non-compete clauses and licensing requirements.
Expand and strengthen adult education and job training.
Utilize BCCC as primarily a job training center aligned with workforce needs of local businesses.
Help localities start and/or expand youth employment programs such as YouthWorks.
Work with legislators from around the state to get large infrastructure projects started faster to allow for increased local hiring.
Start a Clean Energy Job Corps that gets people employed and trained in green economy jobs around the state that need to be done.
41 Eisenbrey, Ross, and Lawrence Mishel, How to Raise Wages: Policies that Work and Policies the Don’t. Washington, D.C.: Economic Policy Institute, March 19, 2015, p. 6.
42 Liu, Patrick, Greg Nantz, Ryan Nunn, and Jay Shambaugh, Thirteen Facts About Wage Growth. Washington, D.C.: The Hamilton Project, September 2017, p. 1.
43 Eisenbrey, Ross, and Lawrence Mishel, How to Raise Wages: Policies that Work and Policies the Don’t. Washington, D.C.: Economic Policy Institute, March 19, 2015, p. 8-12.
44 Allegretto, Sylvia, Anna Godoey, and Michael Reich, Seattle’s Minimum Wage Experience, 2015-16. Berkeley, CA: Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, University of California, Berkeley. June 2017, p. 2-7.
45 Eisenbrey, Ross, and Lawrence Mishel, How to Raise Wages: Policies that Work and Policies the Don’t. Washington, D.C.: Economic Policy Institute, March 19, 2015, p. 10-12.
46 Liu, Patrick, Greg Nantz, Ryan Nunn, and Jay Shambaugh, Thirteen Facts About Wage Growth. Washington, D.C.: The Hamilton Project, September 2017, p. 7-8.
47 Ibid, p. 7-8.
48 “Adult Learner Resources,” Office of Adult Education, the City of Philadelphia. The City of Philadelphia.
49 Cotten, P. Ann, D.P.A., CPA, Baltimore City Community College: Tapping Into Unrealized Potential to Change Lives. Baltimore, MD: The Schaefer Center for Public Policy, The University of Baltimore, August 2016, p. 49, 56-58.
50 Wenger, Yvonne, “Baltimore Summer Jobs Programs Need More Money to Hire 9,400 Young People,” The Baltimore Sun, May 2, 2016.