EARN in the South

EARN in the South, launched in 2017, was created in collaboration with southern members of EARN and grassroots organizations that expressed a desire for closer partnerships, greater information and strategy sharing among states in the region, and a shared economic narrative and strategy for policy change that is grounded in, and responsive to, the unique historical and political climate of the South. The collaboration between EARN members and grassroots organizations aims to advance pro-worker economic, racial, and gender justice policies throughout the region through deep cross-state collaboration between EARN members and grassroots organizations led by, representing, and building power with, directly affected communities – particularly women and Black and Brown people. The EARN in the South cohort is made up of the EARN organizations and their grassroots partners in thirteen Southern states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Read about the Agenda for a Thriving South: A shared vision statement by Southern members of the Economic Analysis and Research Network (EARN). 



State of Working North Carolina

Nearly three years have passed since the first cases of COVID-19 were
detected in the United States. After a series of shutdowns halting
much of normal life, the largest federal stimulus package in U.S. history,
and a mass vaccination campaign, policymakers and pundits were
quick to agree that the worst of the pandemic was behind us. Despite
this messaging, U.S. COVID-19 cases were higher in the early-2022
Omicron wave than at any other point during the pandemic.1
As the
narrative shifted to living with endemic COVID and going back to work,2,3,4
temporary safeguards for workers throughout the pandemic, such as
increased unemployment benefits, were removed.
While a roller-coaster labor market has at times favored workers during
the pandemic, the lows were low, and the highs were offset by inflation5
paired with the removal of federal economic supports that had kept
people afloat early in the pandemic. Despite this, policies that will make
the labor market even worse for working people are on the horizon.6
care economy has become untenable for patients, their loved ones, and
care workers alike. A lack of safeguards for workers amid the pandemic
has created dangerous workplaces and led to unsustainable attrition,
and the care burden placed on families is keeping people — particularly
women and especially women of color — out of work.
All of these choices — sending vulnerable workers back in the midst
of a pandemic; letting an under-regulated and underfunded care
industry erode; and removing economic safeguards that kept low-wage
workers from financial peril — have created an environment for working
people that further entrenches structural inequities. Although the
pandemic brought to light the roots of an economy that relies on worker
vulnerability and exploitation, moving beyond a return to “business as
usual” will require a continued examination of how poor people, Black
and Brown people, women, and people at the intersection of these
identities are a central part of America’s essential workforce yet still
disproportionately bear the brunt of exploitative and inhumane work
Making progress will require that working people demand that their
employers value, respect, and protect them. Many people have been
able to pursue additional education and training needed to move to
more stable and less dangerous careers. Federal supports and extended
unemployment benefits, although short-lived, have given us a glimpse
of a system that can support people during hard times. And faced with a
callous disregard for their safety and health, working North Carolinians
and others around the country have stood together and walked out, gone
on strike, formed unions, and otherwise demanded that employers do
better for working people.
Workers have given policymakers a blueprint for how to support them
— by maintaining a safety net that allows marginalized workers to take
care of their basic needs; by reducing the caregiving burden of working
people; by providing well-paid, dignified jobs for people working as
caregivers; and by helping workers build power in their workplaces and in
our democracy to protect themselves, their coworkers, and their families.
If we follow this blueprint, we can build a more just North Carolina.


Texas Leaders Must Invest in Our State Agencies: We Deserve Effective State Health Care and Food Security Programs

It’s not just El Paso — families throughout the Lone Star State face delays in getting the help they
need. In July 2022, a single mother in North Texas waited on her SNAP benefits for nearly two
months after submitting her application. East Texans are reaching out to their local news
stations with their concerns. At one point in July 2022, more than 300,000 SNAP applications
were waiting to be processed. Though the system is now slowly catching up, state workers
themselves have accessed food banks while waiting for their own SNAP applications to go
through. That’s right — some state workers make such low wages that they qualify for the
same benefits they work to process. It’s not just SNAP. Texans applying for Medicaid also face
delays. Health clinic staff members report trying to assist a pregnant woman who waited two
months for her Medicaid application to be approved, delaying her access to prenatal care. The
backlog is causing families to go without food and health benefits while they wait for their
applications and renewals to go through the system.