As Fiscal Cliff Draws Nearer, There Is No Time For a Plan B

By Janis Bowdler, Director, Wealth-Building Policy Project

This New Year’s, many Americans across the country will have quite a bit weighing on their minds at a time when they are supposed to be clinking champagne glasses and making their resolutions for 2013.  In less than two weeks, our country will go over the fiscal cliff, resulting in a tax hike for millions of Americans and severe funding cuts to education, health care, and housing programs, to name a few.  That is unless Congress and the Obama administration can reach a deal on the federal budget.

For a brief moment earlier this week, it appeared that both sides were willing to compromise.

But that glimmer of hope was fleeting, and it seems negotiations are at a standstill.  Republican leadership is now pushing “Plan B,” which the House will vote on tonight at 6:00 p.m.

Simply put, “Plan B” is bad for Hispanic families.  It fails to meet NCLR’s principles for a fairer federal budget.  The plan further reduces tax liability for those at the top while pushing working families toward poverty.

The wealthiest would be the big winners should this plan pass.  Under “Plan B,” millionaires would get an estimated $50,000 tax cut, while 25 million middle class families making less than $250,000 a year would see their income taxes increase by an average of $1,000 apiece.  And,millions would lose access to the Child Tax Credit, as well as the Earned Income Tax Credit, which are valuable tools that help prevent many Latinos from falling below the poverty line.

All of this while also allowing the sequester to move forward, gutting critical investments in education, jobs, and housing.  For example, in many poor districts, where federal funding covers a substantial portion of their budgets, for every $1 million that a school district receives in federal funding, sequestration will take away $82,000.  For districts with disproportionately large Hispanic and Black populations, that loss could have devastating effects.

“Plan B” is not a viable option for Latinos or this country.  Thankfully, President Obama has already issued a veto threat.  However, that does not mean both sides should stop trying to reach an agreement.  We strongly urge House Speaker Boehner and President Obama to put America’s working and middle-class families ahead of politics.  We need a fair approach to deficit reduction where everyone pays their share.

We must end this stalemate.  Far too much is at stake for the American people.  Nobody wins if we go over the fiscal cliff, and the clock is almost up.

State job creation policies matter for Latinos

By Alicia Criado, Policy Associate, Economic and Employment Policy Project, NCLR

I recently received an email from Vicky, an NCLR supporter, who thanked me for reporting each month on how Latinos are doing in today’s economy.  She also shared that she is unemployed and has come to realize that being bilingual is not enough to help her land a job.  Vicky does not have postsecondary education has found that employers want the whole package in a worker:  adequate training, in-demand skills, and education beyond high school.

Many jobseekers like Vicky are keenly aware of what it takes to stand out in today’s job market, where the ratio of unemployed workers to job openings is more than three to one.  Just over five years from now, in 2018, only 10% of jobs in the U.S. economy will be open to workers with less than a high school degree.  Yet today nearly two out of five (38.4%) Latino adults—and almost half of foreign-born Latino adults (47.5%)—do not have a high school diploma.  These facts are alarming given that by 2050 one in three American workers will be Latino.

It is not clear that the legislators who Vicky and approximately 12 million Latinos helped elect in 2012 understand the needs of the Latino workforce.  According to our latest report, Now Hiring?  Latinos and the Job Creation Policies in the South Atlantic, legislators in South Atlantic states have made plans to create jobs without taking stock of the barriers that the burgeoning Hispanic labor force faces.  State policymakers are paying little to no attention to the intersections of local job creation policies and current state workforce development, immigration, and transportation systems.  Necessary investments in programs like basic skills training, which help Latinos successfully compete for jobs, are often overlooked.  Priority is placed on developing and expanding tax incentives to encourage companies to create jobs and endorsing actions like anti-immigrant legislation that hinder Hispanic workers’ access to employment.  These choices are to the detriment of workers and businesses alike, thus undermining job growth initiatives.

There is a need for significant policy adjustments at the state level to ensure that jobs in the fastest-growing industries are available to Latinos, the fastest-growing segment of workers.  Given the diversity of Latino workers, a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work when developing strategies to meet their unique needs.  This is especially true for Latinos in the South Atlantic.  Disproportionate numbers of Hispanics in the region possess limited formal education or English proficiency and largely have inadequate access to language training.  For example, among Latinos over the age of 25 in Georgia, 44.2% have not completed high school and 70.5% have limited English proficiency.  If we look at this same population next door in Florida, we find that just 26.3% do not have a high school diploma and 57.4% speak English less than very well.  Solutions and approaches must be tailored to local needs.

Now more than ever there is a need for policymakers to ensure that Latinos have a seat at the table to inform the job creation agenda at the state level.  The needs and concerns of the Hispanic community should no longer be an afterthought.  The early warning signs uncovered in Now Hiring?  Latinos and the Job Creation Policies in the South Atlantic call for serious policy discussions on how to ensure that jobs are within reach for a broader share of workers and their families.  It is paramount that in this time of limited resources legislators endorse customized policy solutions that benefit employers and cultivate the workforce for years to come.  These discussions can’t wait because our economy won’t work without Latinos.

Read NCLR’s latest study, Now Hiring?  Latinos and the Job Creation Policies in the South Atlantic, to learn more about the barriers that Latinos face in the labor market and why job creation policies are failing to maximize the employment potential of America’s rapidly growing workforce.  For more information, please contact Alicia Criado, Policy Associate at NCLR, at acriado@nclr.org.

Now It’s Personal: Viewing the Fiscal Cliff from the Perspective of Youth

By Mario Enríquez, Líderes Associate, NCLR

The fiscal cliff has been a hot topic in recent weeks.  From the TV screen to endless posts on our newsfeeds, we can see that the fiscal cliff will not be good for anyone, especially youth.  As a young person you may ask yourself, “What is the fiscal cliff and how exactly does it affect me?”  Some might say, “Why should I care about this?”  The reason is simple:  Out of all the demographic groups in this country, young people will feel the impact of the fiscal cliff the longest, not only now but for decades to come.  Yes, many of us may not earn enough right now to potentially lose $2,000 in taxes, but we should consider how this will affect us down the road.

Failing to avert the fiscal cliff will only exacerbate the already deep hole we are digging for ourselves with our national student debt and our unemployment rate.  As a member of the Millennial Generation, I have seen my friends struggle to find a job that fits their career goals. Black and Latino youth, who are the fast-growing segments of our young people, are suffering unemployment rates of 23% and 18% respectively.”  These rates are much too high, and we cannot bear the burden of inaction from Congress.

We grew up believing in the notion of the American Dream, that if we work hard we can succeed and prosper in America.  We have aimed to achieve this dream for ourselves, for our families, and for our communities.  We know the value of hard work and are ready to join the workforce in our respective fields.  Young people across this country should not have to worry about massive student debt.  We need to start holding the Obama administration and Congress accountable to ensure that we, too, have a fair shot at pursuing the American Dream.

I ask you to think about your personal situation and what life would be like if you didn’t have opportunities to succeed.  What would that mean for you?  We are the leaders of today and tomorrow, and I know that if we stand our ground and make our voices heard, Congress will listen.  We need to start taking action not just for ourselves but also for our families who we fight for every single day.  Let’s get out there and show the power we have as rising leaders in this country!

Drive-bys: SER’s Road Trip Job Placement Strategy

By Lorne C. Green, Manager of Healthcare Workforce Programs, Central States SER

In the Little Village community of Chicago, as well as the surrounding communities of North Lawndale, East Garfield Park, and Pilsen, drive-bys are rarely thought of as something positive.  Yet the job developers of Central States SER’s Healthcare Bridge Program have reinvented the term as they fill vacant certified nursing assistant (CNA) positions at many of the nursing homes and hospitals in Chicago and its suburbs.

Central States SER-Jobs for Progress was founded in 1970 with the goal of expanding career opportunities for the Hispanic community in Chicago.  Over the past decade the number of participants served has grown considerably, from 500 participants in 2002 to more than 10,000 in 2012.  SER’s 115 full-time employees work with a wide range of participants, from former gang-affiliated youth to senior citizens, who are looking to reenter the workforce by gaining skills for careers in health care, transportation, manufacturing, and many other fields.

Along with Daley College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago, Central States SER launched its CNA training program in 2007.  The program was started with the aim of helping low-skilled, low-income adults gain access to training that leads to viable health care careers and helping local health care employers find quality staff.

Central States SER’s Healthcare Bridge Program is the cornerstone of its programmatic work in these communities and, in partnership with Daley College, the program has helped nearly 150 individuals successfully complete a contextualized literacy and numeracy program.  Since 2007, these certifications opened the door for graduates to gain admission to a health care–focused occupational training program at one of the City Colleges of Chicago or Triton College and, ultimately, find employment at a health care facility.

While Central States SER and its partners were highly successful in training and graduating participants from the CNA program, they still had little success with job placement for some of their students.  Despite professional development workshops that included job search techniques, résumé writing, mock interviewing, and providing targeted job leads, many graduates still were not being hired.  This high number of unemployed graduates spurred Central States SER to gather labor market information, specifically from the Illinois Department of Employment Security, to check whether CNAs were still in demand.  Yet according to the data, there will be a 20.95% increase in demand for nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants between 2008 and 2018. Central States SER and its partners were confounded as to why participants were not getting hired.

SER decided to perform an in-depth evaluation of their program to identify where they might have been falling short.  A thorough review of case notes revealed that participants were not being proactive about their own job search:  they skipped job club meetings, did not respond to job leads, and constantly missed job interviews and appointments with their job developers.  Moreover, participants were actually scared of entering the job market.  To combat this fear, one of SER’s job developers had an idea:  not only did she take a few participants with her directly to potential employers, but she also arranged on-site interviews for each participant.  A few days later, all but one were hired.  Thus was born the concept of the “drive-by” at Central States SER.

Key to the drive-by strategy is the identification of employers that are hiring in communities near where participants live.  Job developers then arrange for health care program participants to travel together to potential employers for interviews, which gives them the opportunity to collectively prepare, share interview techniques, and encourage each other before their arrival.

The strategy has proven itself as a best practice when dealing with the hard-to-place, the not-so-motivated, or just plain nervous participants who need a little encouragement, team support, or nudging along the way.  The results speak for themselves:  on average, two out of every three “road trippers” are hired during their first drive-by.  Ultimately, what this experience taught Central State SER and its partners was that fully examining its challenges and engaging all staff will lead to innovative, successful solutions.

Pulling the Plug on Job Training Undermines Our Global Competitiveness

By Catherine Singley, Senior Policy Analyst, Economic and Employment Policy Project, NCLR

Plenty of economists have warned about the negative effects that the so-called “fiscal cliff” would have on jobs. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that if Congress fails to act before the New Year, then employment losses will total 1.6 million jobs by the end of 2013 thanks to the expiration of the payroll tax cut, emergency unemployment insurance, and other measures.  Automatic cuts to federal programs, from education to health care to housing, would result in another 1.3 million jobs lost.  With our recovery still in its infancy, the last thing our country can afford is to willfully increase the ranks of the unemployed.  Latinos, who still face an unemployment rate of 10%, are rightfully anxious about how Congress is approaching these weighty decisions on taxes and the federal budget.

The fate of Latino workers is not just a Latino concern—it is an American concern.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 30% of the U.S. workforce will be Latino by 2050.  It is in our national interest to ensure that Latinos are able to fully participate in and contribute to our economic prosperity.

Labor force projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2018 and 2050
Source: Labor force projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2018 and 2050.

Yet the “fiscal cliff” also poses significant threats to Hispanics who are striving to reach their full potential as workers, taxpayers, and consumers.  Beyond the specter of fewer jobs, the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration would also devastate our country’s public workforce development system.  Under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), federal grants give states the resources to educate and train adults, young people who are no longer in school, and workers transitioning out of dying industries.  The need for intensive adult education and vocational training is especially urgent in Latino communities.  By 2018—when Latinos will represent 18% of the American workforce—only 10% of U.S. jobs will be open to workers with less than a high school degree.  Yet today this is the maximum educational attainment of one-third of the Hispanic workforce.  WIA state grants currently serve 153,917 Latino adults and 38,351 Latino youth (about one-third of all youth served).  Cutting WIA funding would widen the education and skills gap that Latinos already face and threaten America’s future competitiveness in the global economy.

For more information about the stakes for Latinos in the federal budget debate, visit www.nclr.org/federalbudget.

Are You a COGBlocker?

What’s a “COGBlocker?” Your friendly Coal, Oil and Gas representative, Gene Vashing, can explain.

Okay, so this is obviously a joke. You know what’s not a joke: The fact that 44% of Latinos are serious about paying $20 or more per month for electricity from clean energy sources. In fact, together with the Sierra Club, we conducted a recent survey of Latino views on the environment—showing that over 90% of us support clean energy.

Read more about just how green Latinos are.

Latino Unemployment Drops While Fatalities Rise in 2011

By Ricky Garza, Communications Department, NCLR

For the first time in almost four years, national unemployment dropped below 8% to 7.8% in September. Although this is good news for all Americans, the outlook for Hispanic workers is much more mixed.

While the news is mostly good, our new Monthly Latino Employment Report also highlights workplace fatalities on the rise along with the falling Hispanic unemployment rate. Latino unemployment dropped below 10% for the first time since December 2008 (when it was 9.4%), though it remained about two percentage points higher than the national average. This represents an unfortunate trend for Latinos—disproportionate unemployment and participation in high-risk jobs. Despite this troubling reality, the Latino workforce participation rate, which measures how many people of working age are employed or looking for work, remained one of the highest of all ethnic demographics at 66.2%. A review of this data implies that Latinos are one of the hardest working groups of all Americans, and provides a compelling refutation of the negative stereotypes depicting our community as lazy and uninterested in working.

Many Hispanic workers participate in dangerous high-risk sectors such as landscaping, meat-packing, and poultry processing. In 2011, 729 Hispanics lost their lives, an increase from 707 people in 2010. In landscaping, Latinos represented almost half of all workers at 43.7%, and 167 lost their lives in 2011. Many of these deaths reflect the risky work environment facing often poorer foreign-born Hispanic workers, which alone comprised 69% of all Latino deaths.

While the slow recovery and new job growth explains some of these higher fatality numbers, workplace conditions for these Latinos may be worsening. Although all American job fatalities decreased from 2010 to 2011, Latino fatalities increased.

Hardworking and resilient Latino workers should not have to put their lives on the line by working in dangerous and potentially fatal conditions on a daily basis. They deserve stronger protections from employers and relevant government agencies. The federal Office on Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a small budget and relies on only about seven inspectors for every one million U.S. workers. Their budget should be preserved and NCLR encourages OSHA to find new ways to increase reporting of dangerous conditions and to enforce simple but lifesaving workplace regulations to prevent death from heat exhaustion and falls.

Although the employment outlook is cautiously optimistic for all Americans, Latinos still face special challenges and bigger hurdles to finding a job and staying safe in the workplace. There remains much work to be done.

You can read the full Monthly Latino Employment Report here.