If the results of the 2016 election tell us anything, it’s that working- and middle-class families are fed up. They are tired of an economy where average Americans struggle to provide for their families, while corporate CEOs and billionaires keep getting new tax breaks.
They are tired of the lack of good jobs, stagnant wages, and the elimination of one benefit after another. And they are tired of the same old rhetoric coming out of Washington, while seeing those same politicians work hand-in-hand with big corporations to maintain the status quo.
American workers — the ones who play by the rules and work hard to make ends meet — deserve better. Families deserve a plan and a path forward to economic security, and it has to include much more than throwing federal money at each and every company that threatens to leave the country, like President-elect Trump did with Carrier.
The truth is that the path forward is through the states — where elected officials understand the needs of their local economies and can design policies that reflect those needs. And the plan must include ideas like those found in the blueprint that the State Innovation Exchange (SiX) announced this week alongside hundreds of state lawmakers and community leaders.
That blueprint outlines a vision that not only focuses on the desperate need for higher wages and benefits, but also encourages states to foster the development of advanced manufacturing and innovative industries to create good, strong jobs that put people back to work.
It’s a vision that is already being tested and proven effective in states across the country by progressive-minded state lawmakers.
For example, Idaho expanded on its natural resources to be a leader in geothermal energy. Ohio used its industrial base to become an energy mecca, creating jobs that made it the center for wind turbine manufacturing.
Oregon and neighboring states found a way to capitalize on the region’s existing agriculture sector by creating a food processing cluster.
In states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, we know that advances in renewable energy and efficiency investments could create an estimated 50,000 high-wage jobs per year.
And states have more than natural resources to leverage — whether it’s commercializing university research on biomedical advances, incubating technology start-ups, or maximizing the economic impact of the emerging electric vehicle industry supply chain, we can and must continue to carry this innovative work forward in states throughout the nation.
It’s a vision that also focuses on helping American workers thrive in these emerging economies. If we want to put people back to work, let’s do more than just subsidize their unemployment — let’s subsidize their employment as they learn through on-the-job training, apprenticeship, and pre-apprenticeship programs.
Let’s use our world-class system of community and technical colleges to prepare workers for the next generation of jobs. We need to provide a way for people to feel good about going to work and to become confident again in the skills they have to offer.
And finally, it’s a vision that protects American workers by putting them and their families first. That means developing state-based solutions that provide strong leave policies, invest in education, value immigrant workers, and protect savings.
It also means ending corporate exploitation of workers by strengthening unions and preventing wage theft and other abuses. For example, earlier this year, Oregon made it harder for unscrupulous contractors to cheat workers out of a fair wage by preventing wage cuts further down the supply chain.
And in California, the legislature recently put in place restrictions on an employer’s ability to tie up wage claims by preventing that employer from simply filing one lengthy appeal after another with the state labor commission.
We need a new way forward for American workers and for the country. If what we have seen so far from the president-elect is any indication, we know that real ideas won’t be coming out of Washington anytime soon.
And that’s fine, because there are smart, homegrown solutions already being crafted in state legislatures around the country. This is where we must focus in the weeks and months ahead, so that once and for all, we can build a future for hard-working families that holds true promise.
Nick Rathod is the executive director for the State Innovation Exchange.
The views of Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill