Building the Case for Quality Jobs in America

Following the 125th anniversary of Labor Day in the U.S. – celebrating workers’ contributions to companies and the economy – JUST Capital is excited to announce a new initiative dedicated to increasing the prevalence of quality jobs in America.    

Each year, we poll the American public to find out what matters most to them when it comes to just business practices. And each year they prioritize worker- and job-related issues above everything else. This transcends partisanship, geography, and income – in other words, the American people are aligned.  

Importantly, the majority of Americans think companies are falling short when it comes to their workers: 80% of Americans believe that companies do not share enough of their success with employees, and nearly 60% think companies are putting their shareholders above everyone else.   

The public’s desire for change is understandable when you consider the current economic climate. Wages are slowly rising, but inequality is rising faster, exacerbating longer-run trends. Since the Great Recession, more than half of total income growth has gone to the top 10% of Americans. There are signs that such fundamental change is happening: the Business Roundtable took an important step last week, stating that the purpose of a corporation is to provide value to all stakeholders from employees to customers to communities, not just their shareholders. Business leaders have an opportunity to pursue practices that will make this vision for corporate America a reality. 

That’s why JUST Capital is excited to be investing in a new Quality Jobs Initiative as part of our mission to align the market with the values of the American people. The key purpose of the Quality Jobs Initiative is to tie together all the work we’re doing on worker- and job-related issues, surface the business case for good jobs, and showcase the current state of play – from corporate leadership to new insights about types of work and practices – on quality jobs. We’ll be conducting new research on workers, contractors, and quality job practices, engaging companies in a series of one-on-one conversations and small group convenings, working to create more clarity and case studies on human capital standards and practices, and celebrating companies leading the way.

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The Quality Jobs Initiative will comprise four key areas: 

Transparency and Disclosure: We believe that human capital disclosure is the first step of performance analysis and a key step toward change. Already this year, JUST Capital launched the Win-Win of JUST Jobs and the JUST Jobs Policy Tracker, which surfaces worker policy data across all 890 companies we track on nine issues – including diversity and inclusion policies and targets, tuition reimbursement, and work-life balance – representing hundreds of hours of work from our research analysts. This tracker enables anyone – from workers to corporate leaders to investors – to see, for example, every company that has conducted and published the results of a gender pay equity analysis. Over the next year, we will engage companies that do not yet disclose all their policies to make the business case for greater transparency and serve as a thought-partner as they work to achieve higher disclosure. 

We are also pleased to be partnering with NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business to provide their researchers with data on quality jobs so they can assess correlation between quality jobs and corporate financial performance across different sectors, as well as assess how well the “S” in ESG is capturing quality jobs.

Frontline Workers: Business leaders know that frontline workers are crucial to the success of their businesses. We are engaging companies with significant frontline workforces to identify and share policies that ensure frontline jobs are good jobs. In partnership with MIT Sloan Professor Zeynep Ton’s the Good Jobs Institute, we will be co-hosting corporate leaders in a workshop for companies to detail the business case for transitioning to a good jobs strategy. We’ll also be working with companies in surfacing best practices in training, scheduling, and other management policies.

Contract Workers: Increasingly, companies are contracting with vendors, temporary help agencies, and other entities to contribute to and support the production of their goods and services. We are exploring the role of corporate America in creating economic opportunity for workers reliant on these companies regardless of their employment status. Through engagement with companies we seek to advance research on the business dynamics driving the utilization of contractors and alternative work arrangements.  

Mapping Wages: Underpinning all of the work described above is the research that shows that many workers in America don’t earn enough to cover life’s expenses. In addition to engaging companies on specific policies that would improve the economic outcomes of workers, we will be putting forth new ideas for how to measure, quantify, and think about wages. That includes mapping companies’ wages in America, assessing intra-firm inequality, developing a “Living Wage Index” to track progress, and modeling the economic benefits of businesses paying their workers a living wage. 

We’re incredibly excited about this new work, and believe that by partnering with companies and foundations on this new Initiative, we can introduce new insights that make the business and investor case for quality jobs, thereby supporting a shift in corporate practice toward more just business behavior as defined by the American public. 

We’d like to thank our foundation partners for their support of elements of the Quality Jobs Initiative, including: the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Surdna Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and others.

by Alison Omens with contributions from Patrick Oakford.

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