As one of the top ten largest employers in Lane County, our local government can lead the way supporting working families by ensuring that our own workers are being fairly compensated, have time to take care of themselves and others, and have access to the resources they need to thrive; including affordable childcare.
Across the country, we are seeing a dramatic shift in industry and employment. That trend continues here in Lane County, where we see a decline in the traditional manufacturing and labor jobs that have shaped our economies. This decline is due in part to mechanization and more efficient production. After the Great Recession, many of the jobs that came back to our region were not the jobs that we lost, but instead are lower wage service industry jobs with less stability, and few-if any- benefits. Our workforce and local industries are evolving and new economies like hemp and tech can help us move toward a healthier future. We must do all we can to attract businesses that offer sustainable, family wage jobs.
Supporting workers means more than just the hours on the job. To truly support workers, we must have the systems in place so that workers can care for their families. And family is more than just parents and kids, it means your extended blood relatives as well as your chosen family. People know who they are responsible for and providing care for better than employers. When trying to attract an diverse workforce we need to be a place that provides for the whole person with the flexibility and accommodation needed by families of all compositions and descriptions. We should never ask workers to choose between caring for a loved one over keeping their job. Nearly every other developed nation in the world has figured out this balance, and I'm confident that we can too.
Working families in Lane County are facing a crisis of childcare availability and affordability. The inability to find any--let alone affordable--childcare, limits working families’ ability to stay employed, put food on the table, and stay housed. While the Student Success Act is helping counties like ours with expanding early-childhood education, there is still a shortage of diverse educators in the workforce. Looking at ways that Lane County can expand childcare access will help families not only to meet their basic needs, but to stabilize and thrive.
We must develop robust entrepreneurship and incubator programs to make up for historical exclusionary policies that have kept too many out of our economy. The food and beverage industry is a place where Lane County can really dig in, it is an industry that will always fill a need and is sustainable for our local workers. If a large business wants to come in, they need to be in it for the long haul with good paying jobs. Supporting local small businesses that provide jobs with living wages and benefits is key to the long term economic vitality of Lane County. We must embrace diversity and inclusion in our support of small businesses, innovation, and job creation to build a more just and equitable future.
Supporting Lane County families also means standing up for our immigrant neighbors and families. Beyond upholding Oregon's sanctuary laws, this means fighting against wage theft and for protections for vulnerable workers, supporting federal programs that aid immigrant students and families including DACA, and fighting the rise of white nationalism so that everyone in Lane County is safe and has a fair shot at success.