We live in a moment of historic crises — a health crisis, an inequality crisis, a racial justice crisis, and a climate crisis that looms over it all. We’ve got no shortage of work to do to address these crises, and build a better society that works for all of us.
With so much work to be done, there’s no reason anyone in the richest country in the history of the world should be unemployed, underemployed, or working a job that isn’t in the national interest. It’s time to fulfill FDR’s promise, and Dr. King’s dream. It’s time for the government to guarantee good jobs for all.
A jobs guarantee is central to the mission of a Green New Deal and in the Green New Deal resolution already. It protects people from the risk of unemployment and establishes a labor force to do the critical work of building green infrastructure and caring for one another. It’s the best way for us to marshal the full resources of our government and people to transition our energy grid and transform our society. This year, when so many of us are un or underemployed due to COVID and the economic recession, we want to emphasize this critical component of a Green New Deal and demand the government guarantee a good job to anyone who wants one.
What is a Green New Deal Federal Job Guarantee?
What is a job guarantee?
The job guarantee is a federal government program to provide a good job to every person who wants one.
The job guarantee is a long-pursued goal of the American progressive tradition. In the 1940s, labor unions in the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) demanded a job guarantee. Franklin D. Roosevelt supported the right to a job in his never-realized “Second Bill of Rights.” Later, the 1963 March on Washington demanded a jobs guarantee alongside civil rights, understanding that economic justice was a core component of the fight for racial justice. Coretta Scott King went on to lead a grassroots movement for a job guarantee after her husband’s death.
The job guarantee is bigger than just securing jobs for people in the short-term. It’s about permanently enshrining the right to dignified work as a fundamental human right. The right to good employment is uplifted in the 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but this right has never been realized within the United States.
Why is a job guarantee a critical component of the Green New Deal? ?
The job guarantee is central to the mission of the Green New Deal and is a core plank of the Green New Deal resolution. It protects people from the risk of unemployment and establishes a labor force to do the critical work of building green infrastructure and caring for one another. It’s the best way for us to marshal the full resources of our government and people to transition our energy grid and transform our society. This year, when so many of us are un or underemployed due to COVID and the economic recession, we want to emphasize this critical component of a Green New Deal and demand the government guarantee a good job to anyone who wants one.
Who can actually enact or pass a job guarantee?
A job guarantee can be enacted by Congress and signed into law by the President.
How would I get a job through the job guarantee?
The job guarantee would be administered by the federal Department of Labor, which would establish local job offices in each town or county around the country. You show up there, and sign up for a job!
Local jobs available will be determined by the DOL, who will identify needs and opportunities through consultation with municipal and state governments, as well as local community organizations. Care will be taken to ensure that job guarantee jobs are additive to the overall job pool, rather than replacing work that was previously already happening.
How can we ensure that a jobs guarantee will prioritize Black, brown and working class communities that need good jobs the most? How will a jobs guarantee advance racial and economic justice?
Compared to other government programs, the job guarantee is well-designed to reach the people who need it most. That’s because the mandate of the program is to give every single person a job. There’s no means-testing, no qualifications one must prove, few bureaucratic hoops to jump through. These are reasons why the job guarantee has been a core demand of the Black radical tradition as well as the U.S. labor movement.
It will take 2-3 years for the program to scale up enough to meet all demand for employment. In this stage, the DoL should target the build-out to prioritize areas where economic disinvestment and the racial employment gap are highest.
Is a job guarantee popular in the public?
Yes. Recent polling from Data for Progress and The Justice Collaborative Institute (source) shows strong bipartisan support for a federal job guarantee. Sixty-four percent of likely voters, including 78% of Democrats and 53% of Republicans, said they would support a federal job guarantee program as part of the government’s response to the economic crisis.
Is Sunrise still fighting for a Green New Deal? Are there other things we want to fight for this year?
Hell yeah we are. The job guarantee is a key component of the Green New Deal and has been central to the fight all along. We think this spring is the right time to bring it forward as the leading public demand, but we’re not letting go of our other demands either. Check out the Green New Deal Year 1 memo from our national political manager Lauren Maunus for an outline of what else we’re fighting for at the federal level.
How is the job guarantee different from universal basic income, and why isn’t Sunrise campaigning around that?
Universal Basic Income, or UBI, calls for giving everyone a fixed and usually monthly payment that they can spend however they want or need. The proposed amount can vary from $1,000 per month, like Andrew Yang called for to much larger amounts. Like the job guarantee, the goal of UBI is to make sure every person in this country should have rights to meet their basic needs regardless of race, class, age, or education.
Many of us across the movement support both and it doesn’t need to be an either or. That said, there are a couple reasons why Sunrise is campaigning for a job guarantee in particular. The first is practical — we’re in a moment of many crises and there is an incredible amount of work to do. As a movement to tackle climate change, it’s our job to make the connection between the need for action on climate change and millions of jobs, and the job guarantee is a powerful way for us to emphasize just how many jobs it would create.
Even though Sunrise is all about pushing the bounds of what’s possible, our assessment is that given public opinion right now, a job guarantee has the potential to be much bigger and more fundamentally improve more peoples’ lives than the kind of UBI that has gained traction recently.
Where can I read more about the job guarantee?
The Federal Job Guarantee—A Policy to Achieve Permanent Full Employment by Mark Paul , William Darity, Jr., and Darrick Hamilton
The Job Guarantee: Design, Jobs and Implementation by Pavlina Tcherneva
Federal Job Guarantee Resolution Factsheet by Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley
Climate Jobs Guarantee Policy Primer: A Job Guarantee to put America to work stopping climate change by Sunrise policy team, April 2018