Workers are the foundation of our economy – the places we work wouldn’t exist without us. But the economic system that relies on our labor also devalues it: the majority of workers don’t truly share in the profits from our work. We need an economy based on equity, not exploitation – where our contributions to that economy are fairly rewarded and where power and wealth aren’t concentrated in the hands of a few.
To achieve an economy for all in Montgomery County, we need:
According to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, the wage needed to support a single adult working full-time and living alone in Montgomery County is $15.80. A $15 minimum wage is simply the absolute baseline for working people to be able to afford living in our County. And the minimum wage needs to cover all workers, no matter the size of the organization they work for or the type of work they do – this includes agricultural workers, domestic workers, and tipped workers.
In October 2016, important legislation requiring equal pay and earned sick leave went into effect. Maryland’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Act expands equal pay protections to cover gender identity; prohibits steering people to lower-income jobs based on race, gender, or other protected identities; and protects employees who seek information about wage differences in their company. Montgomery County’s Earned Sick and Safe Leave Law requires all employers with employees in the county to offer earned sick leave, including for domestic workers. We must make sure that these new laws are properly enforced. We also need to put pressure on state legislators to override Governor Hogan’s veto of the paid sick leave law that the General Assembly passed in April 2017, which would extend paid sick leave to nearly 700,000 workers across the state.
According to Census and Small Business Administration data, businesses with fewer than 20 employees make up over 80% of companies in the United States (including sole proprietorships). Corporations with fewer than 500 employees employ nearly half of the U.S. workforce, and small businesses have created two out of every three jobs in the country since 1995. Small businesses also better represent the diversity of our nation than large corporations, with people of color making up 14.6% of all small business owners and women making up 36% of all small business owners.
Despite rhetoric from politicians about the importance of small businesses, our policies don’t prioritize them. Studies and surveys from Good Jobs First show that economic development incentives overwhelmingly go to large corporations and low-road employers who don’t pay their workers well, rather than addressing the needs of small businesses. Small business owners are much more interested in access to capital – and in investment in public goods like education, training, and transportation that serve all community members. Our economic development policies need to focus on providing what will actually benefit small businesses, rather than giving away millions in taxpayer dollars to enrich wealthy individuals and corporations.
Cooperative businesses share both decision-making and profit among their members – creating true democracy and justice when it comes to how economic benefits are distributed. Cooperatives can take many forms. Worker cooperatives ensure that employers have a strong say in how their workplace is run and how they should be compensated. Producer cooperatives allow businesses who provide goods and services to share business costs while also increasing their visibility and reach. Consumer cooperatives let purchasers pool their resources to get better value on everything from groceries to energy for their homes, and give them more control over the kinds of goods and services they have available. And housing cooperatives allow people to pool their resources to access good housing and build wealth for their families.
According to an article by political economist Jessica Gordon Nembhard, cooperative businesses have lower failure rates than conventional businesses; build local expertise and wealth; promote economic independence; and build leadership and good citizenship among their members. We need policies that support cooperative enterprises by:
- providing training and access to capital,
- ensuring a level playing field with other businesses, and
- promoting cooperative development among groups that are hardest hit by economic injustice, including low-income people, people of color, immigrants, and women.