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Future of Work Commission highlights paths to a more equitable economy

Californians and the nation are eager to emerge from the health and economic crises caused by COVID-19, and there is growing consensus that the jobs and economy we create must be more equitable and secure than what we had before the pandemic.

To Irvine, that means improving job quality and access to employment, strengthening worker protections, and ensuring the voices of Californians across race, gender, sexual orientation, and geography are at the center of charting our collective future.

One example of that consensus is a new report from California’s Future of Work Commission. Governor Newsom created the commission in 2019 – comprised of leaders from the private, public, and social sectors who led public conversations across the state – to make “recommendations to help California leaders think through how to create inclusive, long-term economic growth and ensure workers and their families share in that success.”

The Irvine Foundation, along with the Blue Shield of California, Ford, and Lumina foundations, provided a grant to The Institute for the Future to support the commission’s work through research, public hearings, and a synthesis of recommendations. The commission’s aim closely aligns with Irvine’s goal to ensure Californians living on low incomes have the power to advance economically.

We pursue that goal through multiyear initiatives – for and informed by workers and the leaders who serve them – focused on pathways, power and protections, place, and partnerships. Californians at the center of our work were in precarious positions before COVID-19 and now face extreme risks of contracting the virus as essential workers, or loss of livelihood with the extensive job cuts caused by the pandemic.

Leaders naturally want to recover and rebuild, but merely returning to the jobs and economy of 2019 would be a missed opportunity. That makes the commission’s recommendations more relevant than ever.

We appreciated the report’s focus on ideas that span job quality, workforce training, wages and benefits, and worker organizations, including:

  • Create at least 1 million jobs in line with California’s climate goals
  • Expand high-road training partnerships to improve access to quality jobs for residents in lower-income communities
  • Create supports for workers to organize in unions and worker associations
  • Expand support for small business and entrepreneurship aimed at addressing a social problem or a community need
  • Develop and pilot a portable benefits platform modeled on Alia for domestic workers, and take action to strengthen California’s care economy

The report’s key themes and specific recommendations outline what the commissioners call a new social compact for employers, workers, education, funders, investors, and the public sector. We at Irvine are exploring where the Foundation can play a role in making the recommendations a reality in line with our work, and we encourage funders, nonprofit, business, civic leaders, and others to do the same. Each of us has an equity stake to ensure California’s economic future works for everyone.

View the report