California will spend millions on coronavirus aid. But what if the jobs created pay poverty wages?

Consider these two facts:

  • About 30 million jobless Americans lost $600-a-week enhanced unemployment benefits last Friday.
  • Hundreds of billions of public dollars are spent each year by state and local governments on everything from printer paper to buses, which creates an untold number of jobs.

Why is it, then, that some state and local governments allow corporations that get public contracts or subsidies to hide information about jobs? If we, the public, are paying the bill, shouldn’t we know whether we’re creating good jobs that pay family-sustaining wages?

That’s why passing California’s Senate Bill 749 is so important—especially during a pandemic, with millions struggling to pay rent and put food on the table.

SB 749 is a commonsense bill that would require jobs-related information in government contracts to be made public under the California Public Records Act. It didn’t pass last year, yet the coalition of labor, community, environmental, and good governance organizations supporting it is growing.

(Are you a California resident? Help #PassSB749 by sending a letter to your state assembly member by clicking here.)

Here’s an example of the impact passing SB 749 could have: In 2017, it took a lawsuit by Jobs to Move America to force the multinational bus manufacturer New Flyer into proving it had honored job commitments in a contract with the Los Angeles Metro. According to pay stubs and corporate reports eventually unsealed in the case, the corporation failed to pay its workers the wages and benefits it had promised in order to win the contract.

New Flyer had promised that 90 percent of its new jobs in California would pay at least $18.35 an hour. But in reality, it was paying most of its workers $17 an hour or less. Additionally, the benefits New Flyer was paying out were typically worth half of what it had promised.

California will soon invest millions of dollars to recover from the economic fallout caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Let’s #PassSB749 to help make sure this investment creates the good jobs our communities rely on to thrive and stay healthy.

Photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit