The Economic Analysis and Research Network (EARN) of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and the National Employment Law Project (NELP) released A State Agenda for America’s Workers
—a blueprint detailing how the new governors and state legislative majorities elected last month can rebuild good jobs for working families in their states.
“When they take office in January, the new governors and legislatures will need to tackle the problem that nearly a decade into an economic expansion, paychecks for average workers have barely budged,” said Naomi Walker, director of EARN. “And the Trump administration is only making it worse by rolling back many of the worker protection gains of recent years, and attacking immigrants, workers of color and unions.”
“Many of the key reforms we outline are best practices that the U.S. Department of Labor pioneered during the Obama administration—but that are now being dismantled under President Trump,” said Paul Sonn, state policy program director at NELP. “Governors and legislatures can protect their states from the impact of the Trump attacks by adopting these best practices for promoting good jobs for their communities.”
In A State Agenda for America’s Workers, NELP and EARN outline policies that governors may pursue using their executive authority—for example, through their state labor departments. Others are recommendations for legislative action to protect workers.
The agenda includes recommendations to:
- Rebuild state labor departments and enable them to effectively and strategically enforce labor laws by restoring their staffing levels the way Obama administration did at the U.S. Labor Department
- Jump-starting stalled paychecks by raising the minimum wage and expanding overtime pay—a middle-class raise ordered by the Obama administration that the Trump Labor Department is now watering down
- Protect contracted workers and on-demand platform workers from attempts by big corporations to carve them out from employment law protections
- Leverage states’ purchasing power to promote good jobs and crack down on employers that cheat their workers, the way the Obama administration did with executive orders
- Fight racial discrimination in the workplace, expand access to jobs for communities shut out of the labor market, and promote fair hiring for people with arrest or conviction records
- Protect immigrant workers by ensuring that state employment and labor laws protect all workers regardless of immigration status
- Defend workers’ freedom to join together in unions and restore workers’ bargaining power
- Fight coercive waivers of workers’ rights, such as the use of forced arbitration to block workers from vindicating their rights in court
- Protect workers’ health and safety
- Protect savers from being ripped off by Wall Street—as the Obama Labor Department did, but was blocked by Congress and the Trump Administration
Governors and state legislatures are the first line of defense for their communities against the Trump Administration’s attacks on workers. The repoort argues these recommendations have the potential to protect working families using state-level mechanism.