We blogged recently about Southern job quality and the consequences of undervaluing low-wage work: “If we focus only on career pathways into ‘good jobs,’ then we ignore the concrete and realistic steps that could be taken to improve the quality of all jobs.”
Microsoft announced yesterday that the corporation is requiring contractors to provide employees with paid sick and leave time. The New York Times points out that the creation of good jobs often comes along with the creation of other jobs that don’t pay well and don’t provide benefits:
The situation is particularly acute in the tech industry, where average full-time employees earn more than $115,000 a year, along with generous benefits like child care, gourmet cafeterias and luxury shuttle rides to work. Many of the contracted service workers — who take care of the children, cook the food or drive the shuttles — earn near poverty-level wages and often do not receive basic benefits like sick leave.
In Santa Clara County, in the heart of Silicon Valley, the median hourly wage for software developers is $64 an hour, and from $11 to $14 for groundskeepers, janitors and security guards, according to Working Partnerships U.S.A., a local labor policy advocacy group. Eighty-eight percent of computer jobs provide paid sick days, compared with 41 percent of building and grounds-cleaning jobs. Three to 4 percent of tech employees are black or Latino, and about 75 percent of janitorial and maintenance workers are.
Microsoft recognizes that improving the quality of the jobs its contractors provide is not only good for the economy as a whole; it’s good for their business. As the article notes, large employers are changing practices to fill the void left by state and national policy gridlock.
In North Carolina, the problem with job quality is extensive, according to the NC Justice Center’s Prosperity Watch:
[A] quality job allows employees to take time off when they’re sick or when they need to take care of a sick child. Unfortunately, far too many of jobs fail to provide these important protections, forcing thousands of North Carolina’s workers to choose between their paycheck and going to work sick. In North Carolina, almost half of the private-sector work force—and two-thirds of low-income workers—lack access to any earned paid sick days.
This isn’t just a problem for those workers and their families; it has consequences for our state’s economy:
North Carolina is not creating enough quality jobs—employment opportunities that pay workers enough to maintain basic spending on necessities like food and doctor visits, ensure retirement security, and provide paid time off when they or family members are sick. Without enough quality jobs, the middle class will shrink, consumer spending will drop, local business sales will suffer, and the overall economy will contract.
Sounds like a healthy state of the South requires quality and quantity when it comes to good jobs!