makers of the new Massachusetts economy, and of its politics : SEIU 1199 service workers (top) and (bottom) tech-ies partying at District hall in Boston’s Innovation District
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Given the widespread incompetence in Governor Patrick’s state administration, this year’s Governor election may well be decided by the competence issue. But the boston Globe editorial of yesterday had it right ; after the new Governor fixes the errors and puts a new hands-on management in place — as well as upgrading its technology — what kind of a state will he or she seek ? What kind of an economy ?
There are two economic movements now taking shape in Massachusetts : low wage workers are organizing for much higher pay, and technology enterprise is demanding ever more highly skilled entry level minds. Small start-ups are driving technology’s advance and changing the culture of upper-income work as well, from institutional bureaucracy to ad-hoc experimentalism. Union organizers, at the same time, are coalescing the many workers who hold service jobs remarkably alike regardless of which enterprise they look after.
To put these two movements in syncresis, every enterprise needs tidying. Hotel rooms, office cleaners, fast food and restaurant work, transportation duties of many kinds; shipment of goods; food service, teaching, police and fire, nursing home care, server farm maintenance : you name it, innovation and enterprise all need tidying. Almost all tidying work cannot be short-cut; it is time intensive physical work and thus very appropriate for collective bargaining.
The two worlds of work need not be opponents. neither can do without the other. So far it is not clear which political party will become the voice of which, or either. Most service worker activism now takes place within the Democratic party, yet the Massachusetts Democratic party is not a “labor party” — at least not yet. as for the world of small start-up innovation, it often seems to be a small, urban, socially progressive gloss on the Democratic party’s bias toward labor, yet much of the innovation world belongs culturally to Massachusetts’s unique GOP, technological, individualistic — and socially progressive.
The two movements synchronize in the marketplace, because wage-paid service workers are customers for technology’s products and enterprise’s offerings. Indeed, wage workers are by far the majority of our economy’s customers. The task facing the next Governor, I assert, is to maintain the economic viability of all such customers and even to improve it.
That should be the overriding priority for whoever becomes our new Governor.
So the question is, how best to accomplish this ? To all our major Goverbor c andidates would suggest the following agenda :
1.support WageAction’s drive to secure a $ 15.00 an hour wage for organized srvice workers. a $ 15.00 an hour worker can support him or herself and family and even spend discretionary income on innovative products and services.
2.follow Boston school superintendent John McDonough’s lead in giving public school principals hiring and firing autonomy, and grant them sufficient curriculum flexibility to downplay — or stick to — mandated testing if they think ot will improve student performance. Do not increase the number of charter schools, but use them as originally intended, as laboratories for forging best practices and classroom innovation. lengthen the school day and add arts to the curriculum. establish skills academies as an alternative to a one-size-fits-all college system.
3.use some of our state’s local aid funds to encourage the siting of technology start-ups in cities beyond the Route 495 belt.
4.welcome immigrants of whatever status and incorporate them into the culture, without differentiation, even as they already spend into the economy.
5.Apply to transportation and infrastructure improvements the tax dollar savings won by WageAction alleviating the public assistance burden previously needed by low wage workers.
6.Simplify the permitting process and regulatory burden that now faces start-ups and small businesses. For example, why should it cost $ 275.00 to file corporation papers and $ 500.0 to register an LLC ?
7.Enforce state law chapter 40B and 40R in all communities, to develop and welcome affordable housing, so badly needed. Why should land costs force builders to build McMansions that sell for $ 600,000 in the Boston area and $ 350,000 elsewhere ? And why should builders of apartment complexes only serve the luxury market, when what is badly needed is housing for the $ 30,000 to $ 60,000 a year earner, who are much, much more numerous than those who earn six-figure salaries ?
8.Close state prisons and prison hospitals such as Bridgewater and Shirley, where abuse of inmates is the rule; require all employees thereof to reapply for their jobs and enforce an entirely new culture vo co-operation and rigorous adherence to codes of conduct. Set a goal of cutting the state’s incarcerated population by fifty (50) percent by 2018.
These reforms, even if only partly accomplished, will give the new Goverrlor plenty to do and his or her followers plenty to strive for, all of it to improvement of life in the next phase of Massachusetts’s bolc experiment in social and economic justice.
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere