Workforce & Labor Platform Guiding Principles
Our mission is to build a tech-driven economy that works for everyone. However, our economic systems are steeped in structural inequities that prevent people from having healthy and stable lives, regardless of how hard they work.
Since the 1980s, we have watched an uninterrupted rise in income inequality cement our country into a winner-take-all model that is leaving millions of working people behind. The causes behind this shift are many: automation, international trade policies, the outsourcing of work to foreign countries, stagnant wages in exchange for bloated executive salaries, and the erosion of unions and worker power. The consequence has been the emergence of two economies—one where the wealthy continue to prosper despite global calamity, and the other where working people from marginalized communities are barely hanging on.
This doesn’t have to be our reality. Technology can be an enabler of broad prosperity, new jobs, and new skills for workers—as it has throughout our history. The tech industry has a unique opportunity—and responsibility—to provide innovations that improve quality of life for everyone. Similarly, tech workers have outsized power to point their industry in the right direction. All jobs can offer living wages, affordable benefits, and a secure retirement. Workers can have a voice and companies can still be profitable. In the largest economy in the world, we can offer stability to everyone—no matter where they work or what job they have.
One of the most important ways that we can ensure that our economy works for everyone is to address the immediate and long-term structural changes that are needed in our labor market.
As a community for tech workers, we advocate for policy solutions that open up opportunities to more people, remove artificial disparities between workers, and strive for structural changes to ensure that everyone can benefit from the economic growth that the tech industry is creating.
As a society, we have accepted the idea that certain jobs are less valuable than others—despite the evidence that shows us that our perceived value of a job is dramatically shaped by the race, gender, and ethnicity of the people performing the job. These ideas, handed down to us generation after generation, have disproportionately impacted Black, brown, and immigrant communities. We believe that all workers, irrespective of their title or job duties, must be paid a living wage, have access to good benefits, and be treated with respect.
As a result of anti-union policies, union membership has fallen to its lowest rate in a hundred years. At the same time, the top 1% of income earners have increased their wages by 150% over the past forty years, while the bottom 90% have increased their wages by only 22% during that same time period—even though worker productivity has skyrocketed by more than 250%.
Massive structural changes in corporate tax policy and labor law over the past four decades have created severe inequality in the labor market. Without an appropriate counterweight to unending corporate power, we see worker’s rights, safety, and economic stability plummet. We believe that workers, both direct employees and contractors, must have a voice and vehicles to build power—inside and outside of their workplaces—in order to rebalance power and bring stability back to the economy.
We know that it’s possible for all workers to make a living wage, have a roof over our heads, and put food on our tables. When we don’t live up to that vision it’s not because of scarcity—it’s because of choices. Policymakers, corporate leaders, and politicians have chosen to implement policies that expand our unequal economic system to benefit a small number of people while half of all Americans can’t find $400 in an emergency. We can make different choices and achieve better outcomes for everyone.
Protect All Workers
Tech companies and other large corporations have the opportunity and the necessary resources to become model employers for all of their employees—headquarters, warehouse, and contractors—ensuring living wages, affordable benefits, and pathways to economic mobility.
Within the tech sector, we see large disparities emerging between headquarters, warehouse, and contracted workers. Companies must be held accountable to responsible contracting standards, labor protections, respecting the right of employees to organize, and removing artificial barriers between workers that suppress wages, benefits, and working conditions.
Expand and Equip the Workforce
Often we hear of workforce training initiatives, billed to help underserved communities find entry points to good jobs and tech employment. While we support this idea, we know that this is an insufficient strategy. Training as a stand-alone approach will not lead us out of inequality and will not guarantee employment for most displaced workers. In order to solve this crisis, we must undertake multiple strategies—massive jobs programs, high labor standards and protections for all jobs, and innovative recruitment, training, and development of new and diverse talent.
At the same time, the tech industry, which is notoriously exclusive, has an imperative to make its employee base more representative of the population at large—not just to create broader economic opportunity, but because companies with diverse representation at all levels are more likely to be successful than those that aren’t. Diverse representation also makes companies more likely to avoid product and business decisions that harm society.
Meet Everyone’s Basic Needs
As inequality deepens and corporate power grows, many workers cannot make ends meet while working full-time and often multiple jobs. Our limited social framework provides meager benefits to those living in abject poverty, but ignores that the majority of Americans struggle to access healthcare, pay rent, and afford child care. This approach leaves millions of workers and their families on a precipice where one emergency can push them into poverty, homelessness or worse.
We need a new social contract that ensures everyone has the basics to survive. We are intrigued by bold ideas being put forth in California and across the nation for guaranteed income, affordable public healthcare, secure publicly-held retirements, portable employment benefits, and more. We must strengthen our social safety net such that no one falls through the cracks.
Workforce & Labor Advisors
Efrem is the Manager, Economic Graph at LinkedIn where he leads a set of partnerships with government agencies and civic organizations to help connect workers to economic opportunity. Learn more about LinkedIn’s Economic Graph at economicgraph.linkedin.com. Prior to joining LinkedIn, Efrem led Code for America’s efforts to help governments better leverage agile software development and user-centered design to support their economic and workforce development efforts.
Efrem was a manager of economic development at the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation where he led EDC’s work on public policy, global strategic initiatives, and select industries, including life sciences, clean technology, and craft beer. He has also served as a Performance Auditor for the City of San Diego and as a board member of multiple organizations supporting leadership development, education, and community engagement. In his spare time, Efrem is an avid runner, snowboarder, and homebrewer. Efrem has a Bachelor’s of Science in Urban and Regional Studies from Cornell University and a Master’s in Public Administration from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University.
Natalie is the co-chair of the Economic Security Project, a fund to support exploration and experimentation of a guaranteed income, and an advisor to the The Aspen Institute Future of Work Initiative.
In 2013, Natalie co-founded and launched Peers.org to support people who work in the sharing economy. Prior, she was the CEO and co-founder of Rebuild the Dream, a platform for people–driven economic change, with Van Jones.
Previously, Natalie served as digital director for President Obama’s Organizing for America (OFA) and the Democratic National Committee. Natalie built the first digital department at the Sierra Club and served as the deputy organizing director for MoveOn.org.
She’s been awarded fellowships at Institute for the Future, Rockwood Leadership Institute and New America California and is a regular commentator on “The Bottom Line” podcast with journalist Rick Wartzman.
Derecka Mehrens is the executive director at Working Partnerships USA. Under Derecka’s leadership, the organization has won numerous campaigns for low- and middle-income working families and communities of color in Silicon Valley, including $950m for affordable housing, $500m in transportation services, a $15 minimum wage by 2019 and protections for renters against unfair evictions and rent increases.
In 2015, Working Partnerships USA co-founded Silicon Valley Rising, a coalition to fight for a more inclusive tech economy, which has since helped more than 5,000 tech industry service workers organize for better wages and a voice at work.
Dr. Chris Benner is the Dorothy E. Everett Chair in Global Information and Social Entrepreneurship, Director of the Everett Program for Technology and Social Change, Director of the Santa Cruz Institute for Social Transformation, and a Professor of Environmental Studies and Sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
His research examines the relationships between technological change, regional development, and the structure of economic opportunity, focusing on regional labor markets and the transformation of work and employment.
He has authored or co-authored six books and more that 70 journal articles, chapters and research reports. His most significant books include: Equity, Growth and Community (2015), which examines diversity and dynamics of regional knowledge communities, and their relationship to social equity and economic growth; Just Growth (2012) which helps uncover the subtle and detailed processes, policies and institutional arrangement that help explain how certain regions around the country have been able to consistently link prosperity and inclusion; This Could Be The Start of Something Big (2009) which examines new regional movements around community development, policy initiatives, and social movement organizing; and Work in the New Economy (2002), an examination of the transformation of work and employment in the information economy. He received his Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning from the University of California, Berkeley.