New Dems Tackle the Future of Work
What can the history of economic change tell us about our future? How will automation and robots affect jobs? The New Democrat Coalition in the U.S. House of Representatives is taking steps to address these questions about the future of work, so we can make sure all Americans are prepared to succeed.
New Democrats believe that innovation has yielded immense benefits to all Americans in their everyday lives; however, Americans are increasingly concerned about how the economy is changing and their place in it. People are entering and participating in the workforce much differently than in the past. The rapid acceleration of technology, societal changes, and the desire to have more flexibility in the workplace has created significant changes to our economy and challenges in public policy.
New Democrat Coalition Members are committed to finding policy solutions to address these challenges related to the future of work in the 21st century economy. Earlier this year, the New Democrat Coalition launched a Future of Work Task Force co-chaired by Reps. Bill Foster, Jared Polis, and Seth Moulton. In an effort to bring the conversation to Congress, the three Members brought together experts to discuss automation and the future of work in the 21st century economy to discuss these important issues for the first forum of its kind on Capitol Hill.
The Coalition was joined by panelists including Professor Louis Hyman, Associated Professor and Director of the Institute of Workplace Studies at Cornell University , Michael Mandel, Chief Economic Strategist at the Progressive Policy Institute, Kristin Sharp, Executive Director of SHIFT: The Commission on Work, Workers, and Technology and R. David Edelman, Director of Project on Technology, Economy & National Security at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Watch the full forum here.
“Now today, 84% of Americans still have traditional employment as their main source of income. But in the last ten years, 94% of net new jobs have been outside of traditional employment. That is where the jobs are growing,” said Professor Louis Hyman, Associate Professor and Director of the Institute of Workplace Studies at Cornell University . “The right solution would be to find a way to create basic security for our citizens while pushing economic growth to ensure we need to do today what the new deal did for the industrial economy in the twentieth century, but with a notable twist that echoes the ambitions of the Homestead Act in the nineteenth century…. using federal policy to channel capital productively without spending any taxpayer dollars.”
New Dems want to ensure that as leaders tasked with maintaining America’s continued competitiveness in a 21st Century economy, we don’t just talk about innovation — we invest in it. New Dems agree with Progressive Policy Institute’s Michael Mandel on this point: “We have to simultaneously invest in the technology, because we want to boost productivity, and jobs, and income, and realize that there is going to be a tremendous amount of turmoil at the same time we have to take care of the people who are being left behind.”
We need to support innovative policies that address the rapidly changing workforce to ensure we have a stable economy that works for everyone. “We need to think about if we are working or moving into a new way of working, and we don’t have a clear path to a clear profession the way we have now, how do we create opportunities for stability for people even when we are asking them to be more proactive and how they find work?” said Kristin Sharp, Executive Director of SHIFT: The Commission on Work, Workers, and Technology.
“I’m encouraged by the attention the New Democrat Coalition has given this topic and by the in-depth conversation we had with our experts,” Rep. Bill Foster said in response to the panel. “It’s clear that everyone who participated in the panel today thinks that technological development will change the nature of work and that we need to start thinking about the future now.”
In order to have a prepared workforce for jobs of the future, we have to destigmatize vocational education and apprenticeships, normalize going back to school — especially at older ages, and incentivize big companies to take some responsibility here as well. R. David Edelman, Director of Project on Technology, Economy & National Security at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) suggested a path forward: “One, put the technologist in the paces to determine the job categories that are actually going to be lost. Two go into local municipalities talk to the mayors, talk to the economic development authorities, talk to those in an industry that are seeing and are able to anticipate what areas that are going to divest ask them and actually get that down on the table. And third, start to look at in a comprehensive of what the layoffs are looking at category by category, aggregate that, and then try to figure out what a solution would like.”
The Future of Work Task Force will continue holding public forums to investigate changes in the economy and work. The next forum will focus on portable benefits and 21st century skills training and take place on Wednesday, June 14 in 340 Cannon at 9am EST. Tune in to watch the live stream here.
The discussions at these forums will help serve as a foundation for the Task Force to build out policy priorities in the future.