Podcast: Rep. Mirra, Future of Work Commissioner, Calls for ‘Job Guarantee’

State Rep. Leonard Mirra. (WHAV News file photograph.)

State Rep. Leonard Mirra, a member of the new Future of Work Commission, says money spent on public assistance might be better allocated to guaranteeing jobs.

Mirra, a recent guest on WHAV’s morning program, said there are a record number of job openings right now.

“We’ve never seen it like this. I was in the construction industry for 30 years and I never saw an economy like this where there so many jobs that we just didn’t have enough people to fill them. Over the July fourth weekend, we heard that some restaurants simply could not open up simply because they could not hire enough people to make their business work, and they just remained closed over a very busy holiday weekend, which is kind of sad to see,” he says.

Mirra, a Georgetown Republican appointed to the Commission by Gov. Charlie Baker, asked panelists at the inaugural online meeting if any research had been done on a federal or state-level job guarantee, similar to what Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has proposed in Congress.

The 17-member Commission was formed by the governor when he signed the 2020 economic development and jobs bill this past January. He has filed legislation he is calling a “guaranteed jobs bill” that would examine how much government money is being spent to keep people out of work and transition them back into the job market, including the private sector.

Mirra says the Commission, made up of legislators, community leaders, municipal leaders and organized labor leaders, is reviewing the current job situation.

“We’re concerned about the number of jobs that will be available in the near future as we increase the amount of automation and the amount of robotics. Our fear being those things will take away a lot of jobs. You’re starting to see it now. We’ve been seeing it for a long time in things like automotive manufacturing. A lot of that work is done now by robots rather than by people. And automation is starting to make its way into, even, the restaurant industry. So, this commission was formed to prepare us for that, to make sure that Massachusetts always has ample number of job openings for people. It’s very exciting work,” he explains.

The Commission is co-chaired by state Sen. Eric Lesser of Longmeadow and State Rep. Josh Cutler of Pembroke and includes Labor Secretary Rosalin Acosta along with two members appointed by Attorney General Maura Healey. The Commission will be receiving testimony from leaders in workforce training and education, fair labor and workers’ rights, as well members of the labor and business communities. A final report will eventually be issued with findings and policy recommendations.

Besides WHAV.net, WHAV’s “Merrimack Valley Newsmakers” podcasts are available via Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeart Radio, Google Podcasts, TuneIn and Alexa.

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