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.

Publications

10-Point Plan for Texas Unemployment Insurance Reform

When crisis and calamity take jobs away, the market economy alone cannot provide working people the help they need to make ends meet. That is where the Texas Unemployment Insurance system comes in. While the magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented, overwhelming the Texas Workforce Commission’s ability to serve applicants on a timely basis, it has also exposed structural weaknesses in the system. The millions of workers who lost jobs through layoffs or furloughs have had extraordinary difficulty applying for and accessing benefits. To modernize a critical earned benefit and better serve the needs of Texans, the Texas AFL-CIO and Every Texan (formerly known as the Center for Public Policy Priorities) propose the following reforms.

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.