What the Public Sector is (and maybe should be doing) about jobs

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It’s the economy, stupid

There is a great deal of concern about job creation in the United States today.  (He writes with a large degree of understatement in play).   One of the things I wrote about recently dealt with what HR professionals could and should be doing about jobs.   I am a strong believer that the only way we are going to see a lasting economic recovery is when the private sector begins to create new permanent jobs again.    This isn’t going to happen rapidly, which means we are going to be stumbling along, applying band-aids and looking for the quick fix.

Public Sector Approach to Jobs

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The federal government has also had something to say on this topic this week.   Congress is striving to enact a jobs bill which would proved about $15 billion dollars  in funding towards tax credits for employer who create new jobs.  This past Friday, the Obama administration’s middle-class task force introduced plans to address the “middle-class squeeze” in the U.S. economy.    According to CNN, some of the strategies proposed by the administration’s plan to protect employees and create more jobs in the report include:

  • passing the Employee Free Choice Act to help workers who want to form unions,
  • offering tax benefits to small businesses to encourage hiring,
  • improve the process of procuring government contracts,
  • invest in clean energy manufacturing and infrastructure,
  • add $5 billion to the $2.3 billion Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit

Organized Labor Approach

Labor unions have a vested interest in the creation on new jobs.  Their membership rolls have been decimated over the past couple of decades by the loss of manufacturing jobs, and the current recession has hurt them even more.  Today there are more union members working in public sector jobs than there are in the private sector.    Organized labor has their own ideas about how we should be creating jobs.   In his testimony before a congressional committee last week, Andy Stern, head of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) shared some of labor’s ideas, including  a 10 point plan for investing in the creation of new jobs.

Indeed, the administration and Congress are now actively seeking out strategies for stimulating growth and job creation. Now is the time for SEIU to propose a bold and comprehensive jobs program to renew the American Dream. To make this happen, we are calling for a robust jobs program built on the following proposals:

  1. Extending the safety net, including increasing unemployment insurance and expanding work sharing programs to provide unemployment benefits for reduced hours of work.
  2. Using TARP funds to increase credit for small businesses.
  3. Expanding federal fiscal relief to states and local governments to save an anticipated 900,000 jobs and the vital services in our communities.
  4. Establishing a public jobs program that targets the fastest-growing sectors of human services such as child care, in-home services for the elderly and disabled, and other services our communities need. This will create jobs in the public and private sectors and ensure our communities are healthy, educated and well-cared for.
  5. Leveraging private investment with public dollars through a Green Bank that will promote energy-efficiency and renewables as a major source of job creation, in both the short and the long term. The jobs we create today will lay the groundwork for the industries of tomorrow.
  6. Expanding the home retrofitting programs begun under the Recovery Act will create good jobs in construction and related industries. Including commercial and public buildings would increase the scope of the program, create high-skilled jobs, and protect the planet by reducing demand for energy. By acting now, America can lead the way on green technology.
  7. Investing in our aging and failing infrastructure by rebuilding our schools, roads and bridges–putting millions to work. An Infrastructure Bank can foster public/private partnerships in developing regional and large scale projects critical for a 21st century economy.
  8. Planning for the passage of healthcare reform, which will add tens of millions of Americans to the healthcare rolls and create more than a million new and different jobs in healthcare and related industries. We need to ensure our present healthcare workforce is prepared and we need innovative recruitment and training programs to meet this new workforce demand.
  9. Passing of the Employee Free Choice Act to protect workers’ freedom to form unions and allow them to share in the prosperity of a new 21st century economy.
  10. Expanding worker training programs on a national scale so that young people are prepared for new industries and workers can learn the skills necessary to compete for new jobs. It’s time to coordinate across agency lines and provide flexible lifelong training for the new economy.

It’s the economy, stupid!

Lots of big talk, and plenty of big ideas about things the government can do to create jobs.   One big problem – who pays for all this?  Where is the tax base for the additional billions required?  What happens to the jobs created in health care and for government projects when the magic money presses in Washington finally screech to a halt?    These are just more band-aids.   They may aid in stopping the bleeding, but they are not the permanent solution.  For myself, I would much rather see a lot of these billions going into partnerships with entrepreneurs, small business, and investment in technology companies who might be making advances in areas where new jobs are going to be much more sticky than jobs created “on the dole”.

Debate begins

In the typical 2010 rancorous Washington fashion, we may be seeing the debate begin already in the tumultuous dialogue going on in the Senate over yet another extension of unemployment benefits.   According to news reports, Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) has been the lone gunman responsible for blocking the passage of this extension, ostensibly arguing that he needed to know where funding for the extension was coming from.

On the floor of the U.S. Senate, Kentucky GOP Senator Jim Bunning this week declared aloud it was “tough shit” if opposing Senators disagreed with his opposition to extend unemployment benefits for jobless Americans.

In response to this, a new organization the Union of the Unemployed has established a petition campaign calling for the ouster of Bunning from from the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.

“One United States Senator, Jim Bunning, is adding a ton of pain to America’s jobless,” declared Rick Sloan, acting executive director of Ur Union of Unemployed, a grass roots organization for unemployed Americans. “His heartless actions mean millions will not receive their unemployment checks. For his stance, he should be ejected from the Hall of Fame and installed in the Hall of Shame.”

More than 1 million people will lose unemployment benefits in March if Congress does not approve legislation to extend the payments, according to an estimate from the National Employment Law Project

“It is an outrage for one senator to stand in the way of desperately needed help for millions of unemployed Americans,” said Sloan. “His legacy as a great ball player is about to be surpassed by his reputation as an obstinate and uncaring ideologue.”

This should help make some progress in Washington on the jobs front!

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