EARN in the South

EARN in the South is a cross-state initiative to develop a pragmatic, but aspirational agenda for improving economic conditions for working families in the South.

Historically, EARN has supported work in states on a range of efforts to improve conditions for working families. Yet, the specific initiatives often have seemed beyond the reach of groups operating in more conservative areas, leaving them to feel that they cannot be full participants in EARN’s core mission. At the December 2016 EARN conference, a workshop titled “EARN in the Red” invited the directors of EARN’s state organizations to discuss opportunities for cross-state work, with a focus on how EARN can support work in the South. Subsequent discussions led to a September 2017 meeting in Atlanta, where representatives from 12 southern EARN groups and advocacy or organizing collaborators from each state discussed the unique challenges of work in the South and began developing a shared framework for advancing worker-centric economic policy in the region.

With an explicit recognition of the centrality of race in the economic and cultural history of the South, the 13 Southern EARN groups involved in this effort have insisted that this work include, from its inception, advocacy and organizing partners who represent affected communities. As a first step, southern EARN groups and their state collaborators will jointly develop a framework for action that can achieve visible successes, however incremental, while offering opportunities to build public support and advance a broader progressive economic agenda.


State of Working Georgia: Pandemic Job Numbers are Improving, but Inequitably

Key Takeaways:

  • Nearly 60 percent of Georgia’s pre-pandemic labor force have turned to the unemployment safety net at some point during the last year.
  • In February 2021, unemployment claims for Black Georgians were 52 percent higher than those of all other filers, and 71 percent higher than those of white Georgians alone.
  • Hispanic and Black women have experienced at least 15 percent underemployment since the pandemic, while underemployment for Black men was 18 percent in the first quarter of 2021, more than any other group in Georgia’s workforce.

Recent historic federal stimulus packages have extended critical unemployment safety net programs, provided immediate cash aid to millions of employed and unemployed Georgians and provided state and local funding to jumpstart Georgia’s recovery. As a result, state lawmakers have an opportunity to target federal and state funding to rebuild Georgia’s economy through racial and gender equity-centered solutions that can support economic mobility for all Georgians. However, more than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, data shows how some Georgians are beginning to recover, while others have experienced little to no recovery at all.

The State of Working Alabama 2021

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Alabama in March 2020, it didn’t just cause massive human suffering and economic disruption. It also revealed suffering and disruption that have long existed and that policymakers have long neglected – or even perpetuated.

COVID-19 has laid bare deep racial inequities in Alabama’s economy and social system that have left our state unprepared to meet the needs of its people in this disaster. As the workers predominantly on the front lines, women and people of color bore the brunt of the economic meltdown. They also simultaneously have suffered greater exposure to the virus that caused it.

Alabama has a weak safety net for struggling families and an approach to economic growth that all too often leaves workers underprotected and underpaid. This ongoing policy legacy has exacerbated the damage that the virus has wreaked on the state’s working people.

In The State of Working Alabama 2021, Alabama Arise explores COVID-19’s significant and negative impacts on the state’s workforce. We also look ahead to outline a state and federal policy agenda for repairing the damage – not by repeating the policy mistakes of the past, but by charting a new path toward a more equitable economy marked by broadly shared prosperity.

State of Working West Virginia 2020: The State of Racial Inequality

In 1967, Black Americans marched, protested, and even rioted as decades of systemic racism and oppression came to a head. In response, President Lyndon Johnson established the Kerner Commission, which spent the next year researching, holding hearings, and visiting communities to examine racial inequity in the country. In 1968, the Commission issued its report, with one over-arching conclusion: “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white — separate and unequal… Segregation and poverty have created in the racial ghetto a destructive environment totally unknown to most white Americans. What white Americans have never fully understood — but what the Negro can never forget — is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.”

Fifty years later, Americans are again marching in protest of systemic inequities that continue to plague our society.

This report, the thirteenth edition of the State of Working West Virginia, comes at a time when national attention has once again been drawn to the issue of racism and racial inequality. It is also the 10-year anniversary of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy’s report “Legacy of Inequality,” which chronicled the experiences and history of Black West Virginians, and analyzed the data showing the inequities that have always been and continue to be central to that experience.

And while there has been progress, the inequities that existed in 2010 — and have existed throughout the nation’s history — still persist in 2020, and West Virginia is not immune to them. Even before the pandemic and subsequent economic collapse, which has disproportionately hurt the Black community, Black West Virginians were almost twice as likely to be living in poverty. Black households have only 70 percent of the income of white households. Black men and women face higher unemployment rates and lower wages. Disparities persist in education, wages, health, and throughout the criminal legal system.

Both the annual State of Working West Virginia reports and the Legacy of Inequality report are typically collaborative efforts, with different organizations and advocates making contributions each year. This year, the pandemic presented challenges to bringing people together to work on a single report, which is why this report is organized a bit differently. While it still includes the usual data analysis section, in lieu of traditional policy recommendations as we have historically provided, this report includes a series of essays from advocates for and practitioners of racial justice in West Virginia, who will speak in their own voices to share their stories, experiences, and policy ideas for addressing racial inequality.

Fifty years ago, the Kerner Commission came to the conclusion that systemic racism was barring Black Americans from access to equal opportunity nationwide. 10 years ago, the Legacy of Inequality report showed that systemic racism had led to persistent racial inequality here in West Virginia. And now, this report displays that the effects of systemic racism continue to harm our Black communities today.

State of Working North Carolina 2020: Curing What Ails Us

Every year, the NC Justice Center releases our State of Working North Carolina report, which tells you what you need to know about how workers in our state are doing. This year, we focus on how historic barriers aren’t just immoral and oppressive to the people they constrain, they hold our whole state back from reaching its full social and economic potential.