California’s mandates to replace diesel trucks with zero-emission electric trucks will bring cleaner air and better jobs – if they stay on track. Slow action by electric utilities and fierce opposition by trucking companies are real threats. Displacement of brick-and-mortar retail stores by online retailing and sprawling warehouses has come at the cost of climate change, bad air, low wages.
The Inland Valley Development Agency plans to convert a 678-acre residential and mixed-use area north of San Bernardino International Airport into 9.2 million-square feet of warehouse and industrial space to create “a thriving jobs center.” This gesture at economic development has already been shown to create poverty-level jobs, economic hardship, and precariously housed workers.
“What happens when you’re working but still can’t afford a place to live?” David Brancaccio asked this question on Marketplace Morning Report in his investigation of “the prevalence of homelessness among fast-food workers in California.” He asked, “when the report [Hungry Cooks] came out, there was pushback by the fast-food industry.
A restaurant industry group ran a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times to dispel public dismay about homeless fast food workers. This follows the LA Times article, “Low wages, short hours drive many fast-food workers into homelessness,” that covered our report, Hungry Cooks. Working conditions in the fast food industry are not a zero sum game where either franchise owners go out of business or fast food workers become homeless.
The fast food industry is a poverty employer, with a larger share of its workers in poverty than any other industry. All low-wage workers face some level of risk that they will become homeless. This risk is compounded in the fast food industry by the combination of low wages, part-time work and employee churn. These interlocking hazards undercut workers’ ability to pay their rent.
Human dignity and public costs are protected by helping vulnerable workers before the onset of chronic homelessness. The longer people are homeless, the worse their problems become, making it more difficult and expensive to stably house them. Predictive analytic screening tools can identify high -risk workers who are likely to become persistently homeless before preventable personal harm and public costs accumulate, and before the crisis of being homeless has diminished their capacity to work and their identity as a member of society.
The success of U.S. programs during the Pandemic recession in preventing homelessness is eye opening. The biggest lesson is that instead of looking just at people who are homeless now, we need to act early to prevent the disaster coming down the tracks – precariously housed workers losing jobs and falling into destitution.
Breaking the Fall – Covid Interventions Prevented Homelessness Struggling workers are either everyone’s responsibility now or everyone’s problem later. When poorly paid workers become jobless at the thin edge of the job market and then unable to pay rent, homeless destitution follows. In fact, we are equipped with the tools we need to protect workers from the sharper edges of joblessness and to combat homelessness.
The Realization Project is a system-change demonstration project of the Economic Roundtable. It has produced public domain library of screening, instructional, personal restoration, and employment tools. The project uses predictive analytic screening tools, which can be downloaded here, to identify unemployed workers with a high risk of becoming persistently homeless.
A photo-journalist named David Bacon asked a key question for his article in Capital & Main, “Should L.A. and Long Beach Get a New Deal From Their Powerhouse Ports?” The question was, What are the costs of running the ports that the shippers are not paying for, and that the public does?
Terminal companies in the San Pedro Bay that are under the control of three international shipping alliances control 81 percent of the containers transported through the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in 2021. Three-quarters of the containers leaving the ports are empty, holding nothing from California except air.
Ports and the Economy Ports should be two-way gates – goods enter and they leave. But in the San Pedro Bay, foreign shippers kicked the gate until it broke – goods are coming in but not going out, harming the environment in port cities, eliminating jobs of California residents and causing long-term harm to local economies and businesses.
A multi-state survey of Over 37,000 Kroger grocery store employees finds 78% food insecure and 14% homeless
Workers’ motivation to support themselves through work and to obtain shelter with the income they earn is valuable both for them and for society. Work provides dignity and prevents the social costs that accompany destitution. The solution of employment costs less than the problem of homelessness.
COVID-driven loss of jobs and employment income will cause the number of homeless workers to increase each year through 2023. Without large-scale, government employment programs the Pandemic Recession is projected to cause twice as much homelessness as the 2008 Great Recession. The Economic Roundtable used data from the 2008 Great Recession to estimate the linkage between job loss and homelessness and forecast the amount and type of pandemic-driven homelessness in Los Angeles, California and the United States.
The outgoing president tweeted, “We believe these people are thieves. The big city machines are corrupt. This was a stolen election. When you see what happened in Detroit, Atlanta, Philadelphia & Milwaukee – massive voter fraud.” This line of sight sees some votes being legitimately cast by patriots but other votes illegitimately cast by people who shouldn’t be counted.
George Floyd’s asphyxiation by a police officer shines a light on racial injustice. Reform has to begin, but not stop, with policing. We also need fundamental economic and government reforms to guarantee civil rights and economic equality and end structural racism. Despite protests throughout the nation demanding justice and equality, the stock market has gone up since the protests began, apparently discounting the possibility of structural change in the economy or the distribution of wealth.
Meeting the basic needs of unemployed workers throughout this economic downturn is essential for preserving our social fabric and civic institutions. California needs to take direct action to address the economic emergency caused by COVID-19 that is causing widespread business closures and extremely high unemployment. Forty-three percent of California workers have a high risk of unemployment.
Proposed Healthy Terminals Acts in New Jersey and New York would add a healthcare benefits supplement of $4.54 per hour, on top of the current PANYNJ minimum wage, for covered airport workers to use in purchasing quality healthcare. We estimate the legislation would affect 34,533 airport workers at Newark Liberty, LaGuardia and JFK Airports, helping many end dependence upon Medicaid.
Households in the Los Angeles metro region paid $7.2 billion for packages from Amazon.com in 2018. Less publicly visible was more than $790 million paid out in public subsidies and uncompensated public costs that supported Amazon’s profitability. It is time for Amazon to come of age and pay its own way. This means paying its full costs to the communities that host it and the workers who create its profits.