More than 40 million American workers have no paid sick leave. For these workers, illness creates an impossible choice: they can either show up for work and risk their health and the health of their co-workers, or stay home and lose a valuable part of their paycheck. For many Americans who are already struggling to pay their bills, taking an unpaid sick day can be financially debilitating. Staying home could even mean termination.
Most of these workers are in service industries like restaurants, health care, and retail, industries where sick workers interact with customers and non-employees on a regular basis. What’s more, the effect is particularly acute in cities, where these jobs cluster.
The burdens that result from having no paid sick leave are exacerbated for parents or caretakers, who must look out not only for themselves but for those in their care. When parents can’t stay home, sick children are sent to school, putting other children at risk. Paid sick leave should be a basic right for American workers. In fact, the United States is one of the only countries in the world without a national paid sick leave law.
Local Progress has teamed up with other community organizations and has provided legal assistance and institutional support to local legislators who are interested in passing a paid sick leave bill. Earlier this year New York passed a Paid Sick Leave bill and recently Jersey City introduced it’s own Paid Sick Leave ordinance, which is expected to pass. For more information on Paid Sick Leave, please click here.
Too often, land development projects do not deliver tangible benefits to local residents. Instead of yielding good jobs, new affordable housing, reliable infrastructure, and convenient amenities, major residential or commercial developments of¬ten lead to corporate profits at the community’s expense.
One solution to this problem is found in community benefit agreements. Community benefit agreements (CBAs) aim to ensure that new developments serve the needs of local residents, not just the needs of developers and their tenants. CBAs are binding agreements typically signed by developers and broad coalitions of local residents and community organizations representing labor, environmental, and affordable housing advocates. In exchange for obtaining the support of the community coalition for its project, the developer generally agrees to some combination of the following: paying good wages to on-site construction workers; requiring commercial tenants of the site pay good wages; building affordable housing as part of any residential development; providing funding for local infrastructure such as community centers, supermarkets, or schools; hiring local residents or members of vulnerable populations; and reducing and/or mitigating negative environmental impacts.
CBAs have been effective in Seattle, Pittsburgh, New Haven, Los Angeles, and other cities across the country. For more information on their implementation, please click here.
Climate change is upon us: widespread wildfires, a massive nation-wide drought, and Hurricane Sandy all brought this reality home in recent years. Cities are crucial to limiting future climate change because shifting from suburban sprawl to urbanization reduces greenhouse gas emissions. And cities will also bear primary responsibility for protecting their residents from the consequences of climate change. With the end of federal stimulus funds, which provided $27 billion for energy efficiency programs and renewable energy research in 2009 and 2010, and in the face of state budget cuts, cities must take the lead on designing innovative programs and funding sources to restart the green jobs movement.
In 2008, over 1,100 mayors signed the Green Jobs Pledge, committing their cities to policies that drive investment in an inclusive and sustainable economy. By focusing on job creation and sustainability, local legislators all over the country are creating fertile ground for inclusive expansion.
The goal of the green jobs movement is to: (1) shift America’s economy away from its dependency on fossil fuels and (2) create millions of sustainable, middle class jobs available to workers with a range of educational backgrounds. Local Progress is eager to further the Green Jobs movement by partnering with local elected officials to explore possible avenues of growth. To read more about this issue, click here.
Forty-six million Americans lived in poverty in 2011, largely because too many workers were paid very low wages. Federal and state minimum wages are too low to lift working families out of poverty, much less into the middle class. Many cities do not have the legal authority to set higher minimum wages.
However, over the past twenty years, more than 140 cities have found another way to ensure that more of their residents are able to make a fair wage. Cities around the country have passed living wage laws, which help ensure that public expenditures create good jobs. The laws set minimum standards for the wages of private sector workers – such as janitors, bus drivers, gardeners, and cafeteria workers – who are employed by businesses that contract with the city or receive public subsidies. Living wages are a second-best alternative to higher minimum wages for all workers. But, unlike minimum wages, most cities have the authority to implement them.
Implementing living wage laws don’t have to cost cities and towns a lot of money. In fact studies have shown that the costs usually were around less than one-tenth of 1% of the overall budget. In addition, living wage laws often improve the competitiveness of bidding for city contracts because they give high-road, high-quality contractors confidence that they will not be under-bid by low-road, low-quality contractors. In addition, living wage laws increase worker productivity and decrease turnover – and help create upward pressure on wage rates more broadly.
For more information on living wage legislation, click here.
Communities around the country have been devastated since the housing bubble burst: families’ life savings disappeared so they cut back on spending; the economy was thrust into recession; government tax revenue plummeted and crucial services were cut. Five years later, the economic crisis caused by irresponsible banking practices continues: almost 20 million Americans are either unemployed or underemployed. And the nation’s housing market remains in disrepair: more than 4.4 million homes have been lost to foreclosure and over 10 million homeowners are “underwater,” meaning they owe more on their mortgage than their house is worth. Although the major settlement announced by the government in early 2012 is benefiting some homeowners, too many people still face huge delays and improper denials of mortgage modifications and there have been very few principal reductions.
Some cities have begun exploring the possibility of using its eminent domain powers to seize at-risk mortgages and replacing them with fair-market value mortgages. By partnering with private investors and creating an opt-in system, using eminent domain in this way doesn’t force residents to sign up nor does it cost the city a dime. Plus, residents get to stay in their homes and receive a mortgage that they can actually afford to pay.
Local Progress has provided support and assistance to community groups fighting for the passage of eminent domain ordinances. Just recently in Richmond, the city council approved eminent domain legislation and other cities are also considering this solution. For more information on reducing mortgage debt, click here.