In an effort to “create an economy of full employment for all regardless of race, gender, or religion,” 10 leading U.S. economic advocacy groups on Monday launched a new campaign calling for a federally subsidized jobs program targeting communities plagued by high unemployment.
The Full Employment for All campaign is timed to coincide with the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday and the 60th anniversary year of King’s “I Have a Dream Speech.”
Just as King’s indictments of U.S. capitalism and militarism are often overlooked, omitted, or overshadowed by his civil rights work, the full name and purpose of the August 1963 demonstration—the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom—have been eclipsed by the iconic speech he delivered there. A year before his April 1968 assassination—which happened while he was supporting striking Black Memphis sanitation workers—King wrote that “we must create full employment or we must create incomes.”
In 1963, the national unemployment rate was about 5% for white Americans but nearly 11% for Blacks. That disparity has remained remarkably consistent to this day and shows that communities of color face high unemployment even during periods of low overall joblessness. These people are the focus of Full Employment for All.
Federally subsidized employment programs have a track record of success from the Works Progress Administration and other New Deal initiatives meant to combat the Great Depression to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, enacted during the last major recession.
“Decades of evidence show us that subsidized jobs work: they help pull people back into the labor market and increase economic security, especially for people facing systemic barriers to employment, such as Black and Brown workers,” said Kali Grant and Natalia Cooper of the Georgetown Center on Poverty & Inequality, one of the 10 Full Employment for All participants. “A federal program of subsidized employment would empower workers, strengthen communities, and move us toward a more equitable economy for everyone.”
Originally published at Commondreams.org.