Governor’s task force report emphasizes a strong and resilient economy must have equity at its core – prioritizing communities that have been left behind.
By Julie A. Su, Special to CalMatters
Julie A. Su is the Secretary for the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, Communications@labor.ca.gov.
In times of economic crisis and high unemployment, we often hear “any job is a good job.” But, is it?
Even before the pandemic, during California’s record-breaking 120 months of economic growth, one-third of California’s workers made less than $15 an hour, with workers of color disproportionately represented in these low-wage jobs. Put another way, jobs were exacerbating racial inequality, and too few Californians had a good job. The pandemic exposed and accelerated these inequities.
We must do better. Being a part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery, I got to work with more than 100 of California’s and the nation’s top minds to develop initiatives for a strong economic recovery for all.
Our recently released report embraces the fundamental truth that a strong and resilient economy must have equity at its core – prioritizing communities too long left behind, who are now the ones most affected by COVID-19 and the pandemic-induced recession. The health of our economy, like the health of our families and communities, relies on us recovering together.
This is why California adopted the first-in-the-nation health equity metric, where counties are evaluated not just on overall COVID-19 rates but on their success in preventing and mitigating the spread among the most vulnerable Californians.
This is why we have focused on investment in our youth. Studies show the devastating impact on young people, particularly youth of color, who come of age during times of high unemployment and economic recession. In the short-term, they encounter more competition for limited jobs. But even more distressing, they face lower lifetime earnings, decreased retirement savings and even lower mortality rates.
To secure their future and ours, we are launching a multi-pronged effort focused on job creation, training and experience, professional networks and leadership opportunities for young Californians who face the greatest barriers to employment.
With every policy priority, there is an opportunity to invest in California businesses and workers by creating more quality jobs. With the Task Force’s guidance, Newsom accelerated the transition to a low-carbon economy by setting requirements for zero-emissions vehicles. In addition to addressing climate change, this action is a chance to create thousands of high-quality, well-paying jobs in manufacturing, green energy technology and related changes in how we live and move.
This will be a huge economic boost for families and communities; quality jobs put hard-earned money in the pockets of middle- and lower-income workers who invest those dollars back into the economy when they pay their bills, buy groceries and support local businesses.
These priorities, and others in the report, are models for the nation. California can emerge as a more just and prosperous state, with higher-wage, stable jobs and high-road, resilient businesses. This starts with improving the jobs we have and expanding quality jobs in growth industries.
We know employers want a well-trained and competitive workforce and that businesses reap the benefits of investments in their workers many times over in greater retention and employee satisfaction. The task force’s initiatives expand our economic recovery and help people achieve their fair share in the economy, increasing consumer spending and shortening the pandemic-induced recession.
But the measure of the task force’s impact extends beyond the ideas generated. The trust and relationships built are arguably just as important. The crises of our time will not be met by government alone, nor by any one sector working in isolation. The task force embodies California at our best – working together, challenging one another, leaning into rather than running from the hardest problems, and setting our sights high. Workers deserve nothing less, and their well-being will define the health of the economy we build.