Jobs vs Careers
Happy September, voters. I hope you had a great Labor Day. I spent this very hot weekend knocking on doors and meeting workers, retirees, and students. No matter where they were on their employment journey, almost everyone I spoke with is concerned about this area’s economic future.
When I talk with voters about the economy, one of the first things I hear is, “There are plenty of jobs around here.” That’s true.
Right now, the unemployment rate is very low, but let’s take a closer look at jobs and quality of life. I read a report recently that really surprised me. It ranked North Carolina 47th in the country for places to work based on wages and worker protections. This means that North Carolina is almost dead last in providing workers with living-wage jobs. Look at employment ads on Craigslist and Indeed. Even the jobs for people with college degrees and experience pay less than $15 per hour. If you’re paying rent and student loans and trying to build a financially secure life, you need to make more than $15 per hour.
Yet, college isn’t for everyone. We are fortunate that there is so much manufacturing in this area. That said, we need to make sure that factory workers have good careers. According to the Living Wage calculator, a single adult raising one child in Hickory needs to earn $22.50 per hour. Even in households with two adults raising three children, each adult must earn more than $10 per hour to stay out of poverty. Lots of people are working more than one job to make ends meet because wages just have not kept pace with production and inflation.
What about worker protections? North Carolina legislators should guarantee sick leave, a transparent process for developing work schedules, more protections against harassment and discrimination, and appropriate policies for women and families during pregnancy and after childbirth or adoption. We also have to get a handle on the number of workers who are hired through staffing agencies. It is important that Catawba County workers have a champion in Raleigh who wants to make a positive difference in their lives.
I will be that champion for workers.
I support the work of the Catawba County Economic Development Corporation, and I look forward to working with the EDC to attract the kind of manufacturing that will help to employ medium-skilled workers, technical engineers, and upper management.
Yet I think it’s critical as we bring companies here by offering tax breaks and worker training programs that we also have them agree to guaranteed worker protections. We want to make sure the new jobs offer good benefits, not only comprehensive healthcare but also vacation and retirement plans. We want employers to hire, train, and promote the young people who want to call this area home.
The bottom line: we want to offer workers meaningful employment, sustainable, living wages, and a better quality of life.
Next week, I’ll look at how we can make sure area workers have the proper training for these meaningful jobs that pay better wages. I’ll discuss the K-64 program and how we can ensure that program has the support and funding that workers and businesses need to thrive in a changing economy.
I was thinking about Labor day as I was walking around talking to people who were enjoying the long weekend. The lesson of that holiday is that workers can improve the conditions of their lives, like getting an 8-hour work day, protections against child labor, and safe working conditions. Those gains were made because the people elected legislators to make these important changes.
Please join me when I’m canvassing neighborhoods around the county. It is so great to talk to the people in our community about what really matters. We have knocked on more than 1,000 doors and if we haven’t come to your neighborhood yet, then we plan to see you soon.
Thanks again for watching. Please follow me on Facebook and check out my website for ways to get involved with my campaign to work for you!