Workforce & Labor Platform Guiding Principles
From automation to the gig economy, technology and the tech industry are changing the way we think about work at a pace faster than we can understand it. There is deep uncertainty about what the future will bring. Some foresee a utopia where leisure time is plentiful and our minds are freed to do higher-order thinking. Some predict deep malaise, even more inequality, and an unprecedented economic crisis with subsequent political consequences.
Where we actually land will likely be somewhere in the middle but the truth is that no one really knows. What we do know is that there are concrete things we can do now to reduce potential harms, equip more people to ride out economic swings, and create more resiliency in the current and future workforce.
We also know that, for many workers, the future of work is actually in the present. As we advance policy solutions to this problem, we must recognize that most workers are facing a potential crisis now. Half of American families can’t come up with $400 in emergency funds at any given time. A solution set that does not account for the urgency of the issue is not adequate to meet the need. To be feasible, any policy agenda must include both short- and long-term ideas.
As tech workers, those who are building the tools and companies contributing to this disruption, we pledge to advocate for policy solutions that we think will mitigate as much harm as possible and open up more opportunity to more people to benefit from the economic growth our industry is creating. These principles also represent a statement of values for our member base (primarily tech workers). It is a living document that will be re-evaluated and revised periodically, in consultation with TechEquity’s workforce & labor advisory board.
We Believe the Following to be True
Worker (re)training, specifically efforts to teach workers new technical skills, has been championed as a way to transition the workforce into the new economy. The truth is, while it’s an important element of a twenty-first century workforce strategy, reskilling efforts in the absence of social supports that make it possible for people to live while they learn new skills, reskilling programs are out of reach for the people who need them most.
Furthermore, we need a workforce conversation that is broader than “everyone should learn how to code.” Not everyone can or should be a software developer, and holding this idea up as a silver bullet for our future workforce problems is not helpful.
It should be possible to live a stable life working a low- or middle-income job — there should be no such thing as the “working poor.” And all workers should feel like they have agency and mobility in their career paths.
Automation in the job market is disproportionately negatively affecting middle-wage jobs. We all know that a healthy economy requires a healthy middle class, and so we have a responsibility to advocate for the protection and growth of middle-wage opportunities.
Union membership has fallen by half since the mid-’80s, a decline that is mirrored in the loss of middle-wage jobs. We’re not nostalgic for unions per se, but without an effective counterweight to corporate power that protects and empowers workers we will continue to see an erosion of job quality.
In an era when jobs will be lost to automation, and more human jobs will be low-paid service jobs, we urgently need to restore the social benefits that keep people out of deep poverty.
The government-run job training and job placement programs of the past and present are an ill fit for the needs of the twenty-first century economy. 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 more representative companies are more likely to be successful than those that aren’t, and representation makes companies more likely to avoid product and business decisions that harm society.
Update and Strengthen Social Support Programs
The social safety net as we knew it in the twentieth century has been slowly eroding over the last several decades. In an era when jobs will be lost to automation, and more human jobs will be low-paid service jobs, we urgently need to restore the social benefits that keep people out of deep poverty. This is a core responsibility of any developed society. We also need a safety net that is responsive to the changing nature of work in the twenty-first century, decoupling benefits from employment.
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.