Progressive Local Government for the 21st Century

Job Quality

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The Problems & Progressive Local Solutions

All local governments want more jobs for their communities, but progressive governance requires an equal focus on the quality of the jobs being generated. City and municipal governments must ensure that all residents have real opportunities and equal access to high quality jobs.

Available Local Levers & Targets of Reforms

Progressive local governments can create high quality jobs by using their regulatory power to establish wage floors and strong employment standards; using the power of the purse to ensure government spending improves job quality; building the capacity to effectively enforce labor laws; and more equal access to jobs by preventing discrimination, expanding training, and supporting local hiring.

Current Reforms & Tools to Fight for Them

Ensuring high quality working conditions starts with ensuring strong wage and benefits standards (see also Wages and Benefits). Cities can institute a living wage, in the example of cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Minneapolis, to name just a few. The UC Berkeley Labor Center has produced a guide to the data and methods necessary to calculate the impact of a living wage law on workers, community, and businesses. Living wage laws are also important tools for establishing benefits standards. ProGov21 has numerous examples of living wage laws that also include health and benefit standards, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Jersey City, New York City, and Seattle. We also have policy guides and research from the SiX Action Network and the Bell Policy Center.

An important new policy avenue for including local job quality is ensuring fair and predictable scheduling. This San Francisco ordinance establishes protections for workers who are also caregivers and creates a right to scheduling flexibility for caregiving activities. Municipalities can also protect workers from arbitrary job loss caused by changes in  contractors or ownership through local laws like the Los Angeles supermarket worker retention ordinance.

Cities and counties in states unable to pass a local minimum wage due to preemption can use local government procurement to raise job quality by ensuring that local government spending only goes to firms that pay a living wage. Examples of responsible contracting laws come from Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Portland, OR. This overview from the National Employment Law Project and this report from the Center for American Progress illustrate both the local authority and local benefit to responsible local contracting.

Existing wages can also be protected regardless of living wage preemption. The San Francisco Wage Theft Ordinance and similar ordinances from Miami and St. Petersburg offer avenues toward dealing with this multibillion dollar problem. Another way to ensure greater protections for workers is to cover workers exempt from federal labor law. For example New York City and Nassau County, NY both  passed a domestic workers’ bill of rights that gives these workers benefits denied to them under federal labor law. Labor standards enforcement regimes and city wage and hour enforcement are critical tools in the enforcement kit.

Taking it to the Next Level

Local governments need to ensure that everyone benefits from the high quality jobs they’re trying to promote. To this end, governments can institute local non-discrimination laws protecting workers who are not covered under federal law, such as LBGTQ workers and certain disabled workers. ProGov21 has examples such as laws from State College, PA’s , St. Louis’, and Multnomah County, OR’s banning discrimination in employment and housing based on sexual orientation. Cities are passing laws to protect other statuses as well, including Washington, D.C.’s ordinance banning discrimination against the unemployed, the New York City ordinance making it illegal to ask a job applicant about their credit history, the Boston ordinance ensuring city contractors do not discriminate people with criminal records, and the Oakland ordinance banning disclosure of criminal record for those seeking public employment.

Cities can also facilitate high quality jobs by directing spending to promote job access for disadvantaged communities, such as utilizing procurement to generate sustainable business jobs. For examples, see the guides from Policy Matters Ohio, Berkeley Labor Center, American Sustainable Business Council’s, and SiX Action. ProGov21 also has resources for targeted hiring programs, such as tje Partnership for Working Families report on local hiring practices and their guide to smart targeted hiring. Similarly, the National League of Cities and NELP’s guide to ensuring people with criminal records can access local hiring programs. UCLA Labor Centerreleased a useful guide to targeted hiring in construction. Local Progress has a guide to ensuring racial equality in public contracting. The Partnership for Working Families and the Community Benefit Law Center created this guide for communities to develop Community Development Agreements for their economic development projects. LAANE also has a wealth of materials on Community Bargaining Agreements (CBAs).

Helpers & Allies