Exploring the Future of Work

November 30, 2018 by TWN Staff

VA Senator Mark Warner gives keynote remarks highlighting workforce investment and portable benefits at fall conference

As the nature of work dramatically changes in the 21st century, new leaders are emerging to tackle the challenges of our shifting economic landscape. Workers are facing growing uncertainty in the labor market, and their relationship with their employers must be rethought while new ideas and solutions are needed to bridge emerging gaps in the marketplace.

The NewDEAL (Developing Exceptional American Leaders), a national network of rising state and local elected leaders, is poised to undertake this task and is bringing together some of the smartest progressive, pro-growth minds from around the country to discuss and explore ways to fill economic achievement gaps. These gaps threaten to become chasms if left unchecked, leaving workers and companies ill-prepared for our economic future.

At this year’s 8th Annual Leaders Conference in Washington, DC, these issues were front and center. Keynote speaker and NewDEAL Honorary Chair Senator Mark Warner addressed the conference with remarks focused on portable benefits, workforce investment and the challenges facing capitalism.

Many workers can no longer be classified within 20th century labor practices, forgoing traditional W-2 employment and instead performing contingent contract-based work. This is beyond Uber and Lyft drivers, including a wide range of industries and professions like graphic design, journalism, and other digital enterprises. As a result, these workers don’t have access to employer-based benefits like retirement packages, healthcare and other perquisites traditional full-time employment provides.

Sen. Warner discussed new legislation he introduced to test drive so-called portable benefits. As many as one-third of the U.S. workforce is currently engaged in temporary, contract or on-demand work, and the Warner-DelBene proposal seeks innovative ways to provide these workers with access to many of the social insurance protections typically provided to workers through traditional full-time employment. The legislation establishes a $20 million grant fund within the U.S. Department of Labor to incentivize states, localities and nonprofit organizations to experiment with portable benefits models for the independent workforce.

Additionally, Sen. Warner highlighted the importance of workforce investment and discussed a proposed “human growth tax credit” that would help improve the imbalance between labor and capital. He gave the example of tax credits for businesses to purchase new computers, incentivizing the acquisition of new technology. But no such tax credit exists for training workers that provide new skills for the 21st century economy, remarking that “we must provide financial resources for people to get necessary training.

Lamenting the focus of quarterly reporting while addressing some issues with capitalism and creating a more equitable economy, Senator Warner shared that short-term shareholder value shouldn’t trump everything else. He also addressed the capital gains tax rate as one of the biggest scams in the American economy and that we need a sense of urgency to fix these issues if we want to build a better, stronger workforce.

The NewDEAL Leaders Conference continued with breakout policy workgroups and additional discussions from leaders from around the country. Speakers included Congressman Conor Lamb, New Jersey State Senator Troy Singleton, Norfolk Councilmember Andria McClellan, Beck Research’s Debbie Beck, and Grist CEO Brady Walkinshaw. More information about the NewDEAL can be found here.

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