Conclusion and recommendations

September 2, 2012
   
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Ohio’s working people are not getting what they need from either the public or the private sector. This is the result of changes in public policy and employer practices over both the short and long term. Among them are wide-scale deregulation of workplace, financial and other basic rules; failure to prioritize manufacturing; job outsourcing to countries with lower standards; sharp attacks on unions; aggressive shredding of the safety net; and neglect of the public sector.

This approach was certain to have consequences and it has. When the economy grows, workers no longer get their fair share. Hundreds of thousands of Ohio jobs are gone. Compared to their parents, workers are putting in more hours, getting more education and being more productive, but they are often rewarded with less security and opportunity than their parents had.

Over the past generation, the country as a whole has pursued policies that hurt many middle-class, working-class and poor families, and many states have followed suit. But there have been a few exceptions and in these we see glimmers of a strategy, outlined on the following page, that could improve outcomes for employees and their families in the U.S. and Ohio.

Lesson 1: Austerity hurts, public investment helps. When we cut public services and lay off public workers, communities, the labor market and the economy suffer.

Ohio should restore funding to schools and local communities so that we can rehire teachers, police officers, and social workers, and restore the services that allow our communities to thrive.

Lesson 2: Manufacturing matters, and smart supports through the Recovery Act and the automobile rescue package have brought this sector in from the ledge. At the same time, however, Ohio is cutting the worker retraining funds that would allow laid-off manufacturing workers to keep their skills sharp and encourage manufacturers to further expand here.

We should invest in training and in a vibrant network of Manufacturing Extension Partnerships, which is currently underfunded.

Lesson 3: Education pays, but Ohio isn’t passing that test. Over the past generation Ohioans have dramatically increased their education levels. This is a good thing, because compensation at lower education levels is shrinking. But other states are investing much more and reaping bigger rewards. And in the most recent state budget, we cut both K-12 and universities, keeping our students back.

Instead we should invest in education, from pre-K through college and beyond.

Lesson 4: Unions give workers leverage and a voice. Aggressive employer anti-union practices and public policy that discourages organizing have taken their toll. As unions have eroded, so have worker wages and benefits and family well being. States with the lowest levels of unionization have the worst wages, states that combine union friendliness and education investments do best. Ohio voters spoke loud and clear last year in retaining collective bargaining rights for public sector workers.

Ohio should retain and expand policies that help workers organize and preserve a collective voice.

Lesson 5: Regulation remains important and must be strengthened. From anti-discrimination laws to environmental regulations to financial product oversight to workplace safety standards, smart regulations help the private sector operate with more safety, opportunity, fairness, equity and intelligence. Deregulating the financial sector helped torpedo our economy. In contrast, the Clean Water Act rescued the Cuyahoga River. Our outcomes show that racial discrimination in hiring and promotion endures, reduced expectations of employers weaken compensation, and too much obedience to the most craven parts of the market can harm us all.

The public and private sectors together must decide how best to regulate products and workplaces so that we can have more broadly shared prosperity and opportunity. 

 
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