"Part of what we've been doing over the past year is exploring what community investments would look like," said Lawrence H. Parks, senior vice president, legislative and external affairs, for FHLBank San Francisco. "We've been working with the Aspen Institute on how to assist with the creation of quality jobs and business expansion. We've been spending time at the local level in our region, which includes Arizona, California, and Nevada, to find out where jobs are growing, what impediments exist, how to get small businesses to middle sized businesses to grow and hire more employees."
In opening the session, Virgie M. Rollins, Chair of the DNC Black Caucus, said that urban communities need the assistance of job and skills training programs and alternative financing structures being supported by FHLBank San Francisco. "People need to know there is someplace that we can come to and can really access the resources that we need," she said at the event on Wednesday.
Maureen Conway, a vice president at the Aspen Institute, said that their organization has been working to determine why the American Dream is becoming more elusive for so many people. "…We need to come square against the challenge that globalization and increased inequality gutted the middle class across Europe and the U.S.," she said, noting that in 2001 she founded a workforce strategies initiative – a look at training opportunities and how people can build their own competencies to get to better jobs.
"People have asked why these training programs are so small, and the answer is that there just aren't enough good jobs to connect people to," Ms. Conway added. "We need to do more to create these better jobs. Over one-third of U.S. workers don't have any paid leave. The minimum wage today is roughly 75% of the value that it was 50 years ago. If you think of the prosperity and wealth that we've created in the past 50 years, we have actually lowered our minimum wage in real terms."
Ai-Jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, explained why healthcare is such a dominant employer, saying that someone in America turns 70 every eight seconds, 13,000 people a day.
"We need to look at opportunities to create jobs where there will be needs in the future," Ms. Poo said. "A workforce of caregivers – historically undervalued – is caring for the most precious people in our lives. People who are working incredibly hard doing difficult, incredible work are still trapped in poverty. This is the fastest growing occupation in our economy today." She added, "We are about to have the largest older population we've ever had – it's incredible thing but there's no infrastructure to support it."
Ben Field, executive officer, South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council, said that it's critical for workers to have benefits, a living wage, and a voice at work.
"Many workers are far from getting the benefits of a collective workplace. Part of the problem is the legal structure that makes it impossible to organize certain workers, like independent contractors," Mr. Field said. "There need to be organizing efforts on a local level and state and national level." He called on the federal government to become a "model employer" that can set an example. "This will create the atmosphere in which the change that we need can take place."
Karl Bell, senior vice president, Invest Detroit, said there needs to be a focus on bringing wealth back to the local community, noting that they focus on people with an entrepreneurial spirit. "We are there to provide equity," he said. "We're trying to make sure that when certain areas are revitalized, we want to include the communities and neighbors." He added, "From a job creation standpoint, we focus on entities that provide living wages so that these businesses can do well for themselves and their employees."
The session also included Monica Edwards, chief investment officer, ICA Fund Good Jobs, and Brett Jones, president, Evergreen Energy Solutions.
"It is critically important for us to identify the issues faced by working people, , as well as the practices that have been successful in communities because there is so much that is not working," said Mr. Parks. "FHLBank San Francisco is taking an opportunity to start a dialogue and support innovations that can help move lower-income families up the economic ladder, reduce income inequality in our region, and create more homeowners."
(Please contact Michael K. Frisby at 202-625-4382 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a broadcast or print interview with Mr. Parks to discuss the initiative.)
About the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco
The Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco delivers low-cost funding and other services that help member financial institutions make home mortgages to people of all income levels and provide credit that supports neighborhoods and communities. FHLBank San Francisco also funds community programs that help members create affordable housing and promote community economic development. FHLBank San Francisco members are headquartered in Arizona, California, and Nevada and include commercial banks, credit unions, industrial loan companies, savings institutions, insurance companies, and community development financial institutions.
Kevin Blackburn 510-377-8999
Michael K. Frisby 202-625-4382
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SOURCE FHLBank San Francisco