The JUST Report: On Labor Day Weekend, How is Labor Really Doing?


Ahead of Labor Day, let’s take stock of where things stand for the American worker. 

On the one hand, it’s becoming abundantly clear that with inflation, the markets and the broader economy being where they are, there will be some challenging times ahead, particularly for lower income and middle-class Americans. And as I mentioned in last week’s newsletter, it’s not obvious today who actually has their backs. 

That said, there are some tangible positives to hold onto. The first is the evident agreement among Americans – including along political lines – that companies have a clear responsibility to step up, to raise wages in line with cost of living increases, to provide affordable health insurance, to present opportunities for advancement, and more. As our latest survey report shows, 87% of Americans believe companies should pay enough so workers don’t rely on public assistance. If you think that sounds intuitive and obvious, as CNBC’s Wilfred Frost noted on Thursday, you’re right. It is. It’s also a grim reality for the tens of millions of hard working Americans who don’t make enough to get by.  

The second is an Edelman Special Report on Trust in the Workplace out this week, which finds that ““My Employer” has emerged as an anchor of trust and stability” and that, among other things, the workplace is now an important source of community for workers. 

Finally, we see business itself stepping up, individually and collectively, to take action. I highlight AEP’s investment in recruitment and retentionBank of America’s commitment to raise its starting hourly wage to $25 by 2025 and its dedication to gender and racial pay equity, with reported near-equal pay ratios at over 99%; and Mastercard’s In Solidarity Initiative, which bring employees into its investment in workforce development and inclusion. Efforts such as the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s Business Commission to Tackle Inequality, which we are part of, are also gathering steam.

Grounds for optimism for sure. Wishing you a wonderful long weekend, 

Be well,

Martin Whittaker

What’s Happening at JUST

Investing in workers today requires creating truly JUST Jobs. But what is a JUST Job? Investing in workers today requires creating truly JUST Jobs. But what is a JUST Job? Our next virtual event will set out to answer that question by exploring specific ways in which companies can close the gap toward all workers earning a living wage, advance equity and mobility, and deliver on the DEI commitments that are crucial to evolving the modern workforce. Click here to register.

Next Friday, September 9th, Martin will join Rashad Robinson, President of Color of Change, and Former Best Buy CEO and JUST Advisor, Hubert Joly, at a Ford Foundation and Washington Post Live event on the Future of Work to discuss how businesses are listening to their employees to help navigate this period of mass disruption. Sign up to attend here. 

On September 22nd, Martin will be joining The Nest Summit during #ClimateWeekNYC to discuss The State of Corporate Climate Commitments. Who is actually walking the walk? Register to join  this and many other conversations at the Summit here.


The Forum

(Ford Foundation)

“To future-proof our economy, we must look at what hasn’t worked in the past and fix it. We know that promoting higher-quality jobs and expanding economic opportunities points us upward. Leaders and investors must commit to reimagining a form of capitalism from which everyone can benefit.” 

“While higher interest rates, slower growth, and softer labor market conditions will bring down inflation, they will also bring some pain to households and businesses…These are the unfortunate costs of reducing inflation. But a failure to restore price stability would mean far greater pain.”

“Unfortunately, the answer is we don’t know. You know, this is not a labor market-driven surge of inflation. This is not the traditional story where the labor market gets tight, wages climb, businesses have to pass those costs on. And then that leads to inflation.

​​​​​​Must-Reads of the Week

Big news out of California on wages for fast food workers. PBS reports that the state has advanced a landmark fast-food workers bill, which would raise wages to $22/hour next year and create a new council that would set sector wages, hours, and working conditions. 

Axios explains that $20/hour is the new $15/hour according to search analysis from the job search site, Indeed. Democratic lawmakers and labor unions in New York are also pushing to raise the state’s minimum wage to $20/hour from its current $15/hour.

Gallup reports that 71% of Americans now approve of labor unions, the highest rating it has recorded on the measure since 1965.

Bloomberg reports that job openings have climbed to 11.2 million, with openings outnumbering available workers by just shy of a 2-to-1 margin. Quartz reports nearly 6% of workers in the leisure and hospitality industry quit their jobs in August, outpacing the 2.7% rate for remaining sectors. 

Fortune frets over current consumer sentiment, which has never been so bad for so long and contributes to  the economic outlook of the nation. It  also discusses how this forecast is impacting workers’ demands of their employers, as many scale back requests with concerns mounting over a recession and layoffs. 

Institutional Investor reports that despite mounting GOP attacks on ESG, a new Morningstar analysis reveals that 90% of public pension funds — including 98% of funds in blue states and 80% in red states — showed support for key ESG resolutions in 2021

Wharton’s ESG Initiative Faculty Director pens a helpful editorial explaining why the anti-ESG investing movement is gaining ground, and what can be done to mitigate its impact. Ruth Ben-Ghiat chronicles in CNN how businesses are starting to strike back against culture war crusades. 


Chart of the Week 

This chart comes from our latest polling report, and reveals that, across the political spectrum, Americans believe that large companies have a responsibility to pay workers a living wage and to pay workers in frontline jobs enough so they don’t  have to rely on public assistance.  

Have questions about our research and rankings?  We want to hear from you!