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Californians Deserve a Fair Shake

Californians Deserve a Fair Shake

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A new report from prominent and respected economic and policy experts, as well as labor, political and business leaders, was just released – and everyone who cares about closing the gap between the rich and poor should take notice.

It comes from the Fair Shake Commission on Inequality in California, which is chaired by environmentalist and investor Tom Steyer. The panel includes a “who’s who” list of respected leaders from Provisional President of SEIU Local 2015 Laphonza Butler to former Member of Congress George Miller to former State Senator Darrell Steinberg.

The bottom line – the report shows that the problem of income inequality might be even worse than we imagined.

The new report highlights that wages for California workers have stagnated despite the fact that they are more productive than ever. Between 1979 and 2013, according to statistics quoted by the report from the UC Berkeley Labor Center, worker productivity was up 89 percent but median hourly compensation grew by just 3 percent during that same period. That’s a long way of saying – the rich got richer, but the workers didn’t.

Sadly, there are enduring regional and racial divides when it comes to income and family wealth. The report shows that in California, in 2014, 24.8 percent of African Americans, 23.3 percent of Latinos and 23.1 percent of Native Americans were living in poverty, compared to 10.2 percent of whites. As we know, here in California, many places on our coast are thriving, but travel just a few dozen miles inland, and you will find pockets of crushing poverty.

My campaign to give voice to every Californian starts with a clear vision – we need to lift more families up with better schools, affordable job training programs, college degrees, affordable homes, modern infrastructure and, most of all, access to meaningful work that gives people both a living wage AND provides job satisfaction with dignity.

To create high-wage jobs and attract and retain high-wage industries, we need to make sure we have the best trained workers, not just in America, but in the world. That takes investment in ourselves – from universal pre-kindergarten to affordable and accessible college and job training. Just about every industry of the future will be a knowledge-based industry. It just about takes the skill of a 1950’s auto designer to be an auto mechanic in the new century. Almost all of the manufacturing of the future will be based on high-technology. These jobs don’t all require college degrees, but they do require job training and, usually, life-long job training.

The industries of the future will be located in the states and communities where they can find the best-trained workers. And that will take not just a continued investment in our students and work force, but new investments in roads, rail and water infrastructure to grow our economy and in affordable housing that attracts and retains high-skilled workers.

To me, the campaign for Governor must be a fact-based and vigorous debate on how we can close the gap between rich and poor and help millions of Californians who have been left out or left behind earn the respect, dignity and meaningful work they seek.

This report is an outstanding addition to this vital discussion.

You can read the report here.

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