Justice  /  Comment

A Federal Job Guarantee: The Unfinished Business of the Civil Rights Movement

The 1963 March on Washington put a government guarantee to a job at the front of the civil rights agenda. It’s long past time to complete the work.

The Covid-19 pandemic has served as a grave reminder of who suffers first, and worst, when the labor market falters. Our most marginalized workers are consistently the last ones hired and the first ones fired—a reality only made worse when crises strike. Nearly 2.4 million women have exited the workforce over the past year of the pandemic. That staggering number is disproportionately made up of Black and brown women. For these women in particular, recovering from this financial setback could take years.

The need for a Federal Job Guarantee could not be more urgent. A Federal Job Guarantee would establish a pathway to stable, unionized, living wage, employment for marginalized workers who consistently face discrimination. A Federal Job Guarantee would begin to close racial and gender income and wealth gaps, while meeting long-neglected community, physical, and social infrastructure needs. That is why, in February, Representative Ayanna Pressley, in partnership with community organizers, activists, and experts, introduced HRes 145, calling on the federal government to guarantee “a legally enforceable right to fair, dignified, and decently-remunerated employment for all eligible individuals living in the United States.”

Our work builds on the shoulders of the many activists who saw an enforceable right to a quality, public-sector job as a key component of the struggle for civil and human rights. The Federal Job Guarantee Resolution continues a long, yet too often unheralded, tradition of Black women shaping history of economic and public policy. Through the last 80 years, it has been Black women at the forefront of demands for full and fair employment. Our collective works seeks to carry the torch boldly lit by justice seekers and civil rights icons like Sadie Alexander, Ella Baker, and Coretta Scott King.