By Sarah Jaffe, In These Times, 2 June 2017
Bishop Dwayne Royster: I am the political director of the PICO National Network and PICO Action Fund. I also serve as the first national vice chair of the Working Families Party.
We are working with a coalition of organizations that have pressed the Congressional Progressive Caucus to come up with a plan for a jobs and infrastructure bill that will put millions of people back to work. In particular, those folks that have been really locked out of the job market, locked out of infrastructure opportunities and jobs; also making sure that we are looking towards the future and not looking towards the past by building out green jobs, by working in urban areas, making sure people of color are prioritized in the work around the infrastructure builds that need to happen, that we are building our education infrastructure across the country, building schools. We want to make sure we get parents and other people in the communities where those schools are getting built and those jobs by creating job opportunities for them.
We are really excited because we think the legislation that is going forward is going to be really progressive legislation that is going to be transformative for communities. It is not about privatization. It is actually about making sure that public dollars are put towards the public trust and that the public ultimately benefits both from the resources that are being built, but from the job opportunities that are being created at the same time.
Sarah: This is a pretty impressive coalition. Can you tell us a little bit about how it came together?
Dwayne: There has been a group working together for a season now, for about 18 months, that is really trying to push progressive ideas in our nation. It is a plethora of progressive organizing and advocacy groups that have been together for a while, including the PICO Network, Center for Popular Democracy, Working Families Party, Demos, Ultraviolet, Color of Change. You always get trouble started with a list because you start to forget people, but there are about 20 organizations that are progressive. The PCCC is a part of that.
We had been working together already, but after the election we put our heads together and said, “Okay, what do we need to lift up? What are the important pieces?” One of the things that really came to the forefront was that there was going to be this jobs and infrastructure bill that we were deeply concerned that the president and the majority of both the House and Senate were going to try to create privatized work that really only benefits the wealthy and doesn’t really benefit the mass of people out there. We began to say, “We need to do something about this. We need to get out in front of this. We need to put out an agenda that is pro-family, that is pro-worker, that is pro-community, and is pro-opportunity,” which is what we did. We worked with the Congressional Progressive Caucus to do just that.
Sarah: Trump ran talking about an infrastructure plan, and something that probably didn’t surprise a lot of us was that whatever infrastructure plans he has floated have a lot of privatization and very little public investment in them. Can you talk about the importance of public investment and why that is something worth fighting for right now?
Dwayne: I think, ultimately, public investment is about the public good and what is in the public interest. When we come to a place where we are talking about making sure that jobs stay in communities, that the infrastructure benefits communities, then we are talking about opportunities that will carry over for decades, as opposed to privatization, which is basically designed to take what limited wealth is in poor and middle class communities and pour it into rich communities and let a few wealthy people benefit from that. That is absolutely destructive to our nation. It is destructive to the economy.
What is exciting about what we are talking about is that public dollars are continually being recycled back in the community over and over again. So, when we talk about building up green infrastructure, we are also talking about ways that communities can create solar cooperatives and so forth to be able to generate the electricity that is necessary for the community, that is money that is being reworked in the community over and over again.
When we talk about building new schools and we are excited about that and because the infrastructure for many of our schools is 60 or 70 years old, they have got asbestos in them, they are not in good shape, what we are making an investment in is our young people. We know we will have a return over and over again. When they are experiencing quality education both in terms of teaching and also in facilities, they are going to continue to trust education as they go forth, have families, have children, continue to stay in those neighborhoods and those communities.
Those are exciting things that we are going to see happen when we are working on building infrastructure, whether it is physical infrastructure like building bridges—and Lord knows our nation is struggling deeply because of the lack of the care and maintenance of the bridges that we have. But then, we are not only building and rebuilding bridges, but we are also taking folk and communities that struggle deeply and getting them the training and the provisions that they need to be able to work on those sites and be able to build careers.
That is the kind of stuff that is really going to be transforming to our nation, that is going to build our national economy, that is going to help grow our nation back into the state that we want to see it in, which is being a world leader. Right now, we are the laughingstock of the world. We want to be a world leader in many of these fields—in education, in infrastructure, in being innovative around opportunities to be able to use renewable resources.
Sarah: So often when it comes to infrastructure people think of roads and bridges. As you say, we desperately need to work on those, but also thinking about the infrastructure of care and of taking care of one another. Education is such a key part of that and it doesn’t get included in these infrastructure discussions. It particularly doesn’t get included in infrastructure discussions under Trump and people like him.
Dwayne: Absolutely not. I think Trump and others are trying to make deals and they are trying to maximize the profits for their friends and the other billionaires that they care about. But, when we think about infrastructure, I think we have to think about the whole in terms of how we are building out our country, our nation, how we are building out future generations. Any infrastructure project is a project that you are looking at that has to last several decades. What better investment in infrastructure could there be than building up solar energy, building out education priorities for our kids, making sure that we are creating job opportunities for people that have been locked out of those opportunities by creating good-paying, middle-class jobs? I think that is infrastructure, as well.
I think infrastructure is much bigger than just looking at roads and bridges. Of course, they are incredibly important, don’t get me wrong on that. But, it is important that we are looking at the infrastructure of a nation, which also includes the human resources that we have, as well.
Sarah: On that note, the coalition that is coming together on this seems to include different parts of the labor movement that have been on opposite sides of some recent debates. I would love for you to talk about how something like this can bring different groups together.
Dwayne: Well, I think because we have a positive pro-America, pro-family, pro-community, pro-infrastructure idea that is generating a bigger vision of what infrastructure is about, I think several of the building trades and other unions that have joined with us in this are seeing the long-term impact that this can have and the positive impact it can have on their industries. When you are taking a look at some of the unions that are throwing down with us, they are looking for workers, they are looking for skilled people. They need to train folks and prepare them for the future. This helps to create opportunities for them to get some folks that might not have normally been a part of their organizations.
When you think about the Laborers and building trades, even CWA is a part of this and certainly telecommunication is one of those infrastructure pieces. We are talking about, in this bill, about expanding broadband into rural communities and other areas. It is going to be their workers that are going to be the ones that are going to build out the infrastructure for that in time to come and they recognize that it is important.
If America is to the best that it can be and to thrive, then we all have to work together to come up with some real positive solutions to help us become the best nation that we possibly can be. This is in their best interest. They could cut deals and work it out so that they benefit on some projects, but ultimately their workers are going to be on the same losing side if Trump’s plan goes through with privatization, because they are going to try to use every mechanism they can try to pay workers the least amount of money and try to get the most out of them as opposed to trying to pay good solid union wage jobs, union benefits jobs that are going to benefit communities that struggle deeply across the country.
Sarah: So there is an infrastructure bill, but the coalition also has a list of principles that you put forth that say what any infrastructure plan most actually contain. Can you talk about those principles a little bit?
Dwayne: I can certainly talk about the one principle that I worked really hard on was making sure that there was deep racial equity in the plan. I think that in our country, in particular in this moment and time, race has been used as a tool to divide us. What we are really talking about is trying to have a positive racial framework that says from the very beginning, “We want everybody to thrive,” but in particular people of color have been locked out of opportunities around jobs and infrastructure. We want to make sure that happens.
We want to have a pro-renewable energy strategy that helps us to understand that we have to think about new ways of creating energy and bringing electricity and renewable resources into our homes. We have this free resource called the sun that we are not taking advantage of and we want to be able to do that. We want to be able to lower emissions. We want to be able to improve the health outcomes in communities that have struggled as a result of using coal for generations for some power plants and other industries and try to find ways to be able to use resources that are not going to promote sickness and illness amongst folks. We have principles that we are laying out that we are very clear about that we think are in the best interest of our nation, best interest of our communities, the best interest of getting people back to work and creating new careers for people to be able to live into for a very long period of time.
Sarah: You have quite a few members of Congress already signing onto this. What has been the response since this went public?
Dwayne: I think it has been positive so far, from what I have seen in the media so far and what I have heard from other folks. I think people are excited. I think they feel like this is moving in the right direction. Certainly, there have been naysayers on the conservative side who have just kind of dismissed it outright. But for the most part people are really excited that we have gotten out this entitlement plan, that we are trying to move something positive into the future, and that we are trying to create a new framework for what America could look like.
Sarah: Talking about putting forward a positive viewpoint, looking forward into the 2018 election, it seems in many places like the Democratic Party really just wants to run on Trump and Russia. Talk about the importance of having a plan like this to put forward and to actually say, “It is not just that Trump is bad, but we actually have a plan that we want to enact and if you put different people in office, we can maybe actually enact it.”
Dwayne: Not to get side tracked on this, but that America has lost its identity. It is a great bastion of multiple peoples, multiple ethnicities, multiple religions, multiple socio-economic groups that are here in this one big place. I think what this plan does is that it shows the best of what America could look like if we choose to be inclusive, if we choose to recognize each other as human beings, if we choose to see that there is no “us” and “them.” It is all of us together.
We have a plan here that impacts both the urban communities and the suburbs and rural communities. It benefits black, white, Latino, indigenous communities, the Asian and Pacific Islander communities. It benefits both those struggling deeply and those that have some level of wealth in this country. It really demonstrates basically what I think is the new American identity and ultimately, in many respects, what we are ultimately trying to drive to is we need to create a new America that reflects the inclusion of all and the absence of none. I think this is the type of legislation that helps us see what America at its best could potentially look like.
Sarah: What are the plans going forward for a campaign around this plan?
Dwayne: All the organizations are continuing to roll this out within their institutions and working with their bases to help people begin working with their legislators to prepare both their House members and the Senate members to let them know, “Hey, this is what our expectations are.” We will be doing the traditional things: phone banking and visiting the legislators both in their home offices and also in D.C. But, in addition to that, there will be actions. We are going to be lifting this up with actions around the country so that people can get educated around the bill, see how this is going to benefit their community, and make sure that their voices are loud and clear in both telling the House, the Senate, and the administration that these are what our expectations are for our country. After all, they work for us. We don’t work for them.
Sarah: How can people get involved with that?
Dwayne: There are a variety of organizations that we have mentioned before. We certainly would invite folk if they are interested in more information, they can reach out to Working Families Party, they can go to Demos, they can go to PICO National Network or PICOnetwork.org, Center for Popular Democracy, Color of Change, and all of the organizations whose names I always forget about. There are ways they can get involved in their local communities and many of these bodies have organizations in their local areas that they can get in right on the ground.
After all, it is not so much about just being a part of national work, but it is really the local work, about getting local members of Congress, about getting the senators from their states to let them know that this is what their expectations are for this work. We would certainly invite them to get engaged. If you want more information, you can go to http://www.PICOnetwork.org and they can reach out to me—that is Dwayne Royster, political director there—and I will be glad to send more information to them.
See further down for an excerpt from Rev. Dwayne’s blog
Interviews for Resistance is a project of Sarah Jaffe, with assistance from Laura Feuillebois and support from the Nation Institute. Other articles in the series:
- Interviews for Resistance: New Progressive Coalition Calls for “Millions of Jobs”
- Interviews for Resistance: From Resistance to Revolution—It’s Time To Switch to Offense
- Interviews for Resistance: Trump’s “Family Leave” Plan Is a Shell Game
- Interviews for Resistance: On the Commodification of Education
- Interviews for Resistance: Bird-Dogging To Stop Trumpcare in the Senate
“It is within our power — in this unexpected place at this unexpected time — to change the damn world,” the Rev. Dwayne D. Royster charged the capacity crowd at the General Synod Sunday community worship service at the Cleveland Convention Center.
A mountain of a man, draped in Joseph’s coat of many colors, the bishop of Living Water United Church of Christ in Philadelphia chose to title his sermon Change the Damn World! “I’m not cussing — or maybe I am — but this is a theological statement.
“Far too many people in this country wake up every day feeling like they’re already living in hell.”
To raise them up, we must “deal with the original sin of this country — racism, slavery and ongoing effects of Jim Crow.”
He chose the story of Elijah’s parting from Elisha at the Jordan in II Kings as his text. Elisha asks for a double portion of Elijah’s anointing, rails against God for taking him, and then picks up the mantle and wields it like a miracle to divide the waters of the Jordan River and return from the dead to the land of the living.
“Just as in the days of Elijah and Ahab, our country is in a deep moral crisis. The issues of race and economic disparity are threatening to tear us asunder. Daily, we are hearing the groans of the people reeling from poverty, oppression, degradation and dehumanization.”
He referred to studies indicating that the deeper the misery of people of color the more the U.S. economy thrives. “Businesses thrive when they extract the wealth from people of color and do not return it to their communities. . .Poorly funded and broken education systems do nothing more than create a school to prison pipeline.”
But when, he asks, do we act?
“We’re very good with rhetoric but very bad with action. If all you’re doing is preaching social justice, you haven’t done very much. . .How are we going change the damn world?If we would get relevant and do the real work of the church, we wouldn’t have to worry about the Millennials leaving the church. We wouldn’t have to worry about becoming irrelevant. We would see black people and brown people rushing back into the church.”
He noted that the church is facing these challenges with tools that were meant for previous generations. “Civil rights battles were won, but we were so busy celebrating, we didn’t see the resurgence of Jim Crow, who went to school and got his law degree…We need to be reminded that the struggle is against the cosmic powers of authority.”
To pick up Elijah’s mantle and go forward as a relevant church, Royster exhorted the crowd to find four things:
Consecration: “We need to strip away all those things that keep dragging us back into the world so we can hear the voice of the still-speaking God.”
Worship: “We need to worship where we are allowed to have a holy imagination of a better world, a changed world.”
Miracles: “We need to go to a place where we believe God still does miracles. That takes prayer and passion like Bree Ann Newsome, who climbed up the Statehouse in South Carolina and took down the Confederate flag. She said, ‘I’m taking down this flag in the name of God.’ And she did.”
Resurrection: “Only when we are willing to risk death can we find life. Do you believe that God is really God? We can’t do the will of God until we are willing to risk it all to transform the world.”
At General Synod 2015, Royster said, the UCC’s Elijah, the Rev. Geoffrey Black, is retiring as general minister and president, and his successor will need a double portion of God’s anointing for the work ahead. “Every single day the world is getting more complicated and more sinister, and the challenges we face have morphed into something else as we speak.”
2/6/2014 3 Comments
The fiery orator, the Rev. Leon Sullivan, was getting up to preach. He was a big man— larger than life to me. They called him “The Lion of Zion.”
In the midst of his sermon about a Pauline text he began weaving in the story of young black men gone missing in Atlanta. Why did it take the police and authorities so long to respond to these missing boys, he asked? In total, 28 went missing. It was a tragedy of epic proportions. The preacher called on the congregation to pray and find ways to support the families in Atlanta, and condemned the system that had ignored them.
Reverend Sullivan’s sermon did not comfort as much as it confronted. Blackfolk needed to own their own futures and not be afraid to challenge authority and people. We have a right to be respected and treated with dignity. I remember walking out of the church different that day. It would take years for me to understand why.
Today, I am many things. I am a Dad, husband, son, brother, uncle, nephew, cousin, and friend. I am a preacher, teacher, organizer, and social change agent. I am a man, an African American and a Native American. I am a Philadelphian, Pennsylvanian and an American. I am a citizen of this world. I am a Human Being. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. And I want to “Change the Damn World!”
Why? Because every day, I live in a city with nearly 30% poverty and 40% of children going to bed hungry. 36,500 people leave Philadelphia’s jails and prisons with no prospects for meaningful employment. Our schools are intentionally underfunded to break unions and destroy the great American institution of public education for privatization. Black boys and young men are the targets of gun owners. Trayvon Martin could have been them, or me. For folk like these and many more across the country living under all kinds of oppression, this world is damned.
I answered the call to ministry not because I wanted to have a nice church, car and house but because I wanted to call out the wrongs of this world to make them right. To me, Jesus is a radical revolutionary who used his faith to turn the world upside down. I want to do the same. The church must reclaim its prophetic roots, speak truth to power, call out unjust systems and demand that they be fixed for the good of all— not just a few.
I will spend my life trying to right these wrongs and many more. My faith demands it. My children need it.
The world needs it. Join me in this journey to “Change the Damn World.”
Other recommendations from the front lines:
- For Energy Efficiency and Distributed Generation Incentive Programs: Implement labor standards for renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other low-carbon construction projects subsidized by public investment and utility ratepayer incentive programs.
- Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) for the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS): Require a CWA on RPS-eligible, utility-scale renewables in power purchase contracts. Alternatively, give preference in the PPA selection process to projects with a multi-craft CWA.
- Low-Income Weatherization Programs: Require a wage floor and build career ladders for low-income energy efficiency retrofit programs funded by utilities and the GGRF.
Invest in GHG-reducing public works projects that reach low-income people in your area. Prioritizing low-carbon investments in the public sector (i.e., public buildings and public infrastructure projects) offers a variety of equity benefits by providing a vehicle for community workforce agreements and ensuring direct investment in disadvantaged communities, while meeting GHG reduction goals.
- MUSH Sector Energy Efficiency and Clean Energy Investments: Create a comprehensive deep retrofit program for MUSH (municipal, university, school, and hospital) and multifamily affordable housing markets that incorporates a community workforce agreement and is funded by existing ratepayer or public funds.
- Green Zones: Support comprehensive GHG reduction and community resilience investments in the most disadvantaged communities, devised through a multi-stakeholder, community engagement process that includes both environmental justice and labor organizations.
Ensure equitable distribution of ratepayer and public incentive funds for private low-carbon investments. Equity can be advanced by ensuring that programs to encourage adoption of solar, electric vehicle, and other low-carbon technologies do not require participants to be homeowners, have disposable savings, or have access to credit in order to benefit from government incentives. To the extent possible, decisionmakers should design programs to incentivize low-carbon investments that are delinked from ownership of individual assets like homes or vehicles. For example, for Community Solar Programs:
- Expand community solar programs that provide distributed solar to multiple households
- (including pass-through benefits to renters), prioritize participation from disadvantaged households and siting in disadvantage areas, and require the incorporation of CWAs.
Ensure just transitions for workers and communities affected by the decline of GHG-emitting industries. Overall, jobs are not likely to be lost but planning is still needed, including Industrial Planning for High GHG-Emitting Industries:
- Identify a lead state agency and a funding source and initiate an inclusive planning process to mitigate transition losses for workers and communities potentially impacted by industrial decline due to climate policy.
- Ensure that any cap and trade programs do not exacerbate pollution hotspots in disadvantaged communities and amend the program where necessary. Ongoing concerns about the possible adverse impact of the cap-and-trade system on existing environmental justice hotspots requires developing robust evaluation and collecting the data to monitor exposure, with a trigger to respond if cap and trade exacerbates pollution hotspots, particularly in disadvantaged communities. Addressing these issues requires incorporation of co-pollutant emissions, public reporting of cap-and-trade transactions by facility, and restrictions on facility-level trading and offset purchases at facilities in prioritized disadvantaged communities when necessary.
Ensure participation from labor and EJ representatives in all climate policy arenas.
State and local government should collect consistent, reliable, and publicly available data to monitor performance on key equity indicators. Although measuring progress may seem like a small step, we highlight the importance of performance reporting, following the adage “what gets measured gets managed.”
Statewide Public Accountability System to Track Equity Outcomes.
The state should develop an annual Climate Equity Report based on tracking equity outcomes to enable state officials to monitor whether equity goals have been reached, to identify areas where climate policy should be improved to advance equity, and to hold public bodies accountable for progress on equity in GHG reduction measures.
This set of recommendations was recently assembled by John Farrell and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, with many good links:
- Adopt a resolution to get to 100% renewable energy on a fast timescale. It’s a race! Ordinances have been developed by Pueblo, CO; Traverse City, MI; East Hampton, NY.
- Commit to developing local renewable energy to serve local energy needs; e.g., Taos, NM ordinance
- Minimize zoning and permitting costs for renewable energy systems; e.g., Lancaster, CA. Also check examples from community power map.
- Replace all public lighting with LEDs; e.g., Oahu, New York, NY ordinance
- Put solar on every possible public building & maximize energy efficiency of existing and future public buildings; e.g., ordinances in San Francisco, CA; New York, NY. All public buildings should be required to install net zero carbon emissions systems (solar, geothermal). Public housing over to heat pumps and more efficient ice-based air conditioning systems.
- Consider the full range of energy storage options. While batteries are coming down in price, there are many kinds of energy storage options beyond batteries. Stanford at night freezes ice in rooftop tubing, with the melted cold water from it used for air conditioning during the day. A pilot system in Okotoks, Alberta, uses solar plus heated rocks underground for winter heating.
- Commit to electrification of city fleet vehicles; e.g., Austin, TX ordinance
- Have the city host community solar projects for residents and businesses; e.g., Taylors Falls, MN; Minneapolis, MN
- Adopt the most efficient building energy code allowed by state law; e.g., Boston, MA; Tucson, AZ; Babylon, NY; Boulder County, CO. In NYC the big issue is buildings, which constitutes 75% of the carbon footprint. And after 7 years of voluntary retrofits, the big fight is now to make it mandatory, starting with those that are cost effective. LA may be able to draw best practices from these efforts.
- Require solar installations on all new buildings. See San Francisco, CA ordinance and examples in Lancaster and Sebastopol, CA.
- Require energy disclosure upon rental or sale of single-family housing. See Austin, TX ordinance for example for all homes, for new construction + remodels: Boulder, CO, new construction: Santa Fe, NM, and for Energy bill disclosure: Chicago, IL; Montgomery County, MD.
- Require energy disclosure upon rental or sale of multi-family housing. See Minneapolis, MN ordinance and examples: Austin, TX; Boston, MA; Minneapolis, MN; New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; San Francisco, CA; Seattle, WA; Washington, DC
- Require minimum energy efficiency investment as part of rental licensing. See ordinance from Boulder, CO.
- Reduce energy costs by deferring transmission and distribution costs, improving power quality, and shaving peak demand. See Minster, OH muni storage investment.
- For areas with a franchise agreement with a monopoly utility: Implement or increase utility franchise fee to finance energy savings programs. See ordinance: Edina, MN. Migrate toward community energy and keeping the profits from energy in the community.
We have only begun to tap our solar energy potential. We have the technical potential to generate tens to hundreds of times more solar energy than we currently do, according to a National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) analysis of technical rooftop solar potential on small buildings. Also, a 1-megawatt solar array provides about $2.5 million in economic benefits for construction and operation, but an additional $5 million in local revenue if it’s locally owned.
More on jobs:
Renewable energy is one of our best hopes for jobs. A 2008 report by the Center on Wisconsin Strategies suggests that 8 -11 jobs can be created for every $1 million invested in building energy efficiency retrofitting. The American Solar Energy Society has estimated that jobs in energy efficiency industries are well on their way to quadrupling between 2007 and 2030, from 3.75 million to 16.7 million.
A public jobs program should be launched to secure the right to decent paid work through public jobs for the unemployed and those presently working in low paid service-sector jobs such as in fast food and retail and in sectors unlikely to exist in the future, related to fossil fuel mining and transport. Economist Philip Harvey estimated the net federal cost for 1 million living-wage public jobs in 2011 at $28.6 billion. The economic multiplier of this fiscal stimulus would generate another 414,000 jobs in Harvey’s analysis. Dividing 19.6 million needed jobs by 1.4 million created jobs equals 14, which multiplied by $28.6 billion equals $400.4 billion for a 19.6 million jobs program. Other economists also estimate the cost of a program for the federal government as employer of last resort (ELR) would be relatively small, around 1-2% of GDP because it corresponds with huge savings in unemployment insurance in a way that pays people to work rather than to not work. A federally funded ELR program will also help local and state budgets as incomes from employment add to the tax revenue of states and local governments. A job guarantee would also be good for the private sector, as it guarantees that domestic demand never collapses as much as it has in recent years, with chronically low wages and structural unemployment and underemployment. It would also lift incomes for the most vulnerable households, helping to significantly reduce income inequality. Bernie Sanders’ recent presidential campaign called for the creation of 13 million living wage jobs, primarily through $200 billion a year in investments in infrastructure: water system, transportation, seaports, electric grid, low head dams, and broadband. A Green New Deal could invest in infrastructure that reduces the carbon footprint (e.g., energy retrofits, renewable energy), as well as education, child and adult care, home health services and other essential human services.
Economists predict that we can build a 100 percent renewable energy system at costs comparable to or less than what we would have to spend to continue our reliance on dirty energy. The International Energy Agency estimates that limiting warming to 2° C would require an additional investment of about 1 percent of global GDP per year. (We Have the Power, Environment America and the Frontier Group, http://bit.ly/1qlnotd), which would be $170 billion a year for the US. The former chairperson of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has made similar estimates.
Other recommendations to support a just energy and transport transition include the following policies:
- Automatic Unemployment Insurance (UI) and related re-employment assistance benefits should kick in automatically for eligible workers. The duration of coverage for these benefits should also be automatically extended during periods of high unemployment. UI and related job training and placement benefits should be fully funded and modernized to meet the anticipated demand.
- Progressive Basic Income – Since the efficiency of today’s technological advancements may outpace our ability to replace automated jobs with new jobs for the displaced, it would be prudent to establish a progressive basic income (PBI) to offset the likely potential for seismic changes in the labor market. The Social Security program—which has features that facilitate the collection and distribution of revenue on a broad scale—is the most effective and efficient delivery mechanism by which this could be accomplished. A Progressive Basic Income would not replace Social Security’s retiree, disability, and survivor programs, but would be part of an expanded Social Security system.
- Education and Retraining – Since the vast majority of workers in driving occupations have lower educational attainment levels, education and retraining could help displaced workers secure comparable or better jobs. Although higher education does not necessarily translate into jobs or economic mobility, policies that promote affordable postsecondary education and training options— with built-in subsidies for displaced workers—as well as fully funding existing programs such as American Job Centers, are important options.
- Automatic Medicaid Eligibility – Federal and state governments should expand Medicaid eligibility to automatically cover displaced workers with household incomes below a determined level. This type of assistance will enable workers to protect their health and their wallets while they seek opportunities to retrain, get additional education, and/or find a new job.
- Expanding Support for Entrepreneurs – Programs and incentives that can help displaced workers start and sustain businesses could lead to job creation and have a generative effect on the U.S. economy.