Showing posts with label georgia congressional district. Show all posts
Showing posts with label georgia congressional district. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Time for Georgia to take a positive approach to labor development

Low wages, pay equity, public assistance, and drug use are related issues for Georgia.

This month, a series of reports have been published concerning Georgia’s labor force, most of them negative. The UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education published a study titled “Producing Poverty: The Public Cost of Low-Wage Production Jobs in Manufacturing”. 

In it they found that 47 percent of production workers in manufacturing and temporary services relied on some form of public assistance:


Earned Income Tax Credit
Medicaid/CHIP
Food Stamps
TANF
Total Participation
Georgia
39%
15%
22%
1%
47%
(Some workers participate in more than one public assistance program.)

The study also provides an explanation for these high rates of public assistance. “Historically, blue collar jobs in manufacturing provided opportunities for workers without a college education to earn a decent living. For many manufacturing jobs, this is no longer true. While employment in manufacturing has started to grow again following the great recession, the new production jobs created are less likely to be union and more likely to pay low wages. When jobs do not pay enough for workers to meet their basic needs, they rely on public assistance programs to fill the gaps,” according to the report.

This past Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Labor issued its new rules for overtime. In a map accompanying the announcement, USDOL indicated that the updated protections would extend protections for an additional 158,000 workers in Georgia. This in a state where 4.4 percent of workers were already at or below the minimum wage, a figure much higher than the national average.

The American Association of University Women published a study showing the median earnings for men and women across the nation. In Georgia, the gap was widest in Congressional Districts 6 (Price, R-GA) and 11 (Loudermilk, R-GA). In the 6th Congressional District, women earned on average 27.4 percent less than men. In the 11th Congressional District, the difference was 25.8 percent. This compares to a 21 percent gap nationally.

Georgia Congressional Districts with widest earnings gaps between men and women (2014)
Member of Congress
District
Earnings Ratio
Price (Republican)
GA-6
72.6%
Loudermilk (Republican)
GA-11
74.2%
Scott, A. (Republican)
GA-8
75.6%
Westmorland (Republican)
GA-3
76.3%
Hice (Republican)
GA-10
77.0%



As it happens, the two Congressional districts are side-by-side, with the 6th District including much of the northern suburbs of Atlanta including portions of Cobb, Fulton, and Dekalb counties. The 11th District is located in the northwestern part of the Atlanta metro area and includes Cartersville, Marietta, and Woodstock proving that the worse problems were not just in the traditionally rural parts of South Georgia.

Finally, The New York Times published a story this week on “Hiring Hurdle: Finding Workers Who Can Pass a Drug Test.” In the story, Georgia officials and company managers were dismayed to find that companies in Georgia are having trouble finding workers due to the number who fail company drug tests.

Taken individually, the stories can be read as a series of “what’s wrong with Georgia”, but they should not be read as unrelated issues.

Low wages, low rates of unionization (only 4 percent of workers in Georgia are members of unions), and significant problems in pay equity between men and women feed on each other. The results show up as social problems including greater need for public assistance and greater drug use.

Georgia has done an excellent job of luring companies, and most recently the film industry, to the state. Now they need to commit to raising their labor force, not by creating more rules and barriers but by taking a positive approach to developing its workforce by supporting efforts at great pay equity and higher wages for both men and women even if that means taking a less confrontational approach towards unions. 

The same positive approach Georgia officials take to economic development should be applied to labor development.