Boston Jobs Coalition Decries Economic Disparity in Boston

The Boston Jobs Coalition held a press briefing on Wednesday, May 30,  to begin their Campaign for Wealth and Income Now, which seeks to help residents stay afloat in a city with an ever-rising cost of living. The campaign — lead by a score of advocacy groups such as City Life/Vida Urbana, the Black Economic Justice Institute, and Reclaim Roxbury — started off its mission with announcing a new ordinance to be filed to the City Council which would help residents enter jobs largely taken by suburban workers.

The ordinance, titled “Good Jobs for Boston Residents,” would ensure that, for Boston-based jobs, half of a workplace’s employees are Boston residents, half are people of color, and half are women. This largely expands on the Boston Residents Job Policy, an existing ordinance approved in 1983. In its current form, the Boston Residents Job Policy demands that workers in private development projects over 50,000 square feet and any public development project must consist of 51 percent Boston residents, 40 percent people of color, and 12 percent women. The Good Jobs for Boston Residents ordinance also demands more jobs with livable wages and health benefits, as well as more accountability for employers benefitting from public resources.

“When employers benefit from our money or public decisions, they should be accountable to Boston’s residents by creating good jobs and hiring Boston’s residents,” the Boston Jobs Coalition said in a released statement. “When Amazon is given $5 million in tax credits, with no requirement for local hiring, this is wrong.”

On Saturday, June 2, the Boston Jobs Coalition and its allies took to the streets of Boston’s Seaport to protest wealth inequality and bring public exposure to its campaign. In the Seaport,  development cost $18 billion of Boston public funds, yet a large majority of its jobs don’t go to city residents.One group of tenants the coalition spoke to pays $9,000 a month in rent; and as the coalition’s chants for economic justice echoed, a massive zumba class danced across the street- the dichotomy between privilege and struggle became more apparent.

According to city and census data, 75 percent of Boston jobs go to suburban residents, while only half of Boston residents can find work in the city. At least 70,000 households in Boston consider themselves at risk of displacement; half of Boston’s households pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing.

“We work for our landlords and our bills; we don’t work for ourselves,” said Tuki Gatui, a member of City Life/Vida Urbana who spoke at the protest.

Tarshia Green-Williams, an organizer for Massachusetts Jobs With Justice, also spoke of hardship. Green-Williams comes from a line of people struggling. One side of her family fled northward, from the sharecropping South. The other side crossed the Atlantic, leaving an economically-burdened Portugal. Though her parents came to Boston with hopes of gaining prosperity, Green-Williams says she and her two children now face similar troubles.

“We are not looking for handouts, we have just been looking for opportunity,” she said.

Only 65,000 residents — 16,613 of those residents being people of color — have full-time jobs making over $75,000 annually, a salary becoming increasingly necessary just to live in the city. Minorities in particular feel the most pressure, with the median income of white residents with Bachelor’s degrees being $70,000, while the median income for Black residents with the same qualifiers is $38,000, and $30,000 for Hispanic residents.

“Boston’s residents, particularly its residents of color, have worked for decades to build the vibrant, creative city we all want to live in,” the Boston Jobs Coalition said in a statement. “We want to continue contributing the city and its neighborhoods… but to do that, we need our fair share of jobs.”

Zach Mobrice is an intern at Spare Change News. A native of Rhode Island, Zach studies journalism at Roger Williams University.

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