About Us

The Mobility Agenda is a think tank that seeks to stimulate and shape a dialogue to build public support for strengthening the labor market, benefiting our economy, workers, and communities.

Key elements of our new approach include:

  • Developing big-picture ideas that foster social and economic inclusion, promoting long-term strategies for the adoption of such ideas, and speaking clearly about the values and principles that are at the foundation of these ideas.
  • Using innovative strategies to communicate and highlight principles and leaders in order to build a more favorable climate of public opinion for these ideas and a role for government.
  • Creating stronger links between the economic policy community and stakeholders from other disciplines and those utilizing other approaches.
  • Developing talented and diverse new voices in public debate, particularly those interested in reshaping the dialogue on the economy and good jobs to build public support for new policy.

Job quality and access to employment benefits are among the key building blocks to stability in the labor market and stronger community economies. Three areas of work on these issues are particularly important:

  • identifying new and innovative approaches to improving access to employment benefits and good jobs;
  • supporting the implementation and advancement of innovative approaches among employers and all levels of government; and
  • educating policymakers and stakeholders about these approaches.


The Low-Wage Labor Market

Over 40 million jobs in the United States—about one in three—pay low wages of $11.11 or less, often providing no employment benefits and little flexibility. Even though the United States is among the wealthiest nations in the world, employers pay these workers less than workers who hold similar jobs elsewhere.

The last decade has seen some progress on advancing a number of well-known policies to improve job quality by boosting the minimum wage and expanding publicly subsidized employment benefits, like child care and wage subsidies such as the Earned Income Tax Credit. Likewise, we support efforts to address education and advancement strategies that prepare workers for skilled jobs.

Still, when one worker advances out of a low-wage job and another worker takes it, the job does not change. Across the nation, state and local stakeholders are experimenting with a host of new initiatives to improve low-wage jobs. These innovative ideas are less well known and are not commonly incorporated into the agenda of anti-poverty advocates and academics.

New Ideas and Strategies for Good Jobs
See the New Ideas and Strategies for Low-Wage Work National Scan Summary (10/07)
Margy Waller, Executive Director

1. Work-Life Policies include a broad spectrum of options such as offering and permitting paid sick days, an expansion of the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (allowing time off from work for family medical leave when a family member is seriously ill or to care for a new child) to smaller employers, paid family leave, “flex time,” and occasional flexible scheduling with considerations for an employee’s health and family commitments. Other proposals focus on creating part-time and overtime options, additional job options like part-time work with benefits, unpaid family leave, and optional (as opposed to mandatory) overtime.

2. Employer Investment Strategies include a broad array of employment benefits provided by employers. Providing such benefits is not only beneficial to employees but also pays dividends to employers by enhancing recruitment, retention, and productivity. These benefits can include homeownership and rental assistance, public transportation subsidies and assistance with car purchase, child care, and lower-interest loans (to combat the high interest of payday lenders and buy-here-pay-here car dealers). Some organizations are developing initiatives designed to improve employee engagement by developing and supporting employee understanding of job expectations and importance, providing on-the-job career planning and advancement options, promoting positive relationships between workers and a shared understanding of organizational goals and values. Other employers are considering providing assistance accessing public and private employment benefits through in-house human resource offices or outsourced providers.

3. Democratic Workplaces address the system of leadership and decision-making within the workplace. New strategies focus on employment sectors that have traditionally been excluded from activities such as collectively negotiating better working conditions. Recent examples include state policy changes that give home-based child care workers the right to organize and collectively bargain with state and local governments for better pay and benefits. Employee ownership and co-ops can also address issues of job security and quality.

4. Accountable Public Investment is a broad category describing the opportunity for policymakers to ensure that public investment results in real returns for the community, including better jobs. Strategies include community-benefit agreements (CBAs) between developers or employers and the community in which a proposed development or business wants to locate. Such agreements ensure an open process for utilizing public resources and considering benefits for all sectors of the community. The benefits negotiated as part of a CBA can include hiring from a specific geographic area for development and permanent jobs, allowing workers to negotiate and organize, paying a living wage, providing health coverage, and creating jobs with advancement opportunities. In addition, some workforce development agencies are negotiating for better job quality in exchange for providing employer-designed training opportunities.

5. Universal Voluntary Retirement Accounts fill the gap created when employers do not provide a tax-deferred retirement option for workers. Under this proposal, workers would be able to open an account with a sponsoring state agency and make contributions that employers and states could match. For small employers, this policy could create an opportunity to provide some retirement security without the expense of account setup and management.

6. Healthcare Coverage proposals move toward providing affordable healthcare coverage and benefits for all residents, while beginning to de-link health care coverage from employment. Proposals include a universal method of healthcare coverage, financed with a combination of government, individual, and employer. These proposals utilize the collective buying and bargaining power of residents to obtain affordable insurance rates for services such as vision, dental, routine medical care, more complex procedures, and preventative care. Many proposals would provide coverage for people independent of their employment or residency status.

7. Wage and Hour Enforcement policies and proposals ensure that employers pay workers the legal minimum wage, including appropriate pay for overtime work. Researchers find that employers in the restaurant, garment, and nursing home industries routinely violate the wage and hour laws. Barriers to enforcement include inadequate funding for enforcement agencies at all levels of government, and the misclassification of many jobs (in the health care and domestic sectors, for example) resulting in exclusion from wage and hour protections. Proposals to reduce these violations and expand coverage include worker-center organizing (particularly for immigrant workers who are often subject to pressure to accept below minimum wage rates of pay), encouraging collective action by employee groups, reducing illegal retaliation against workers, enforcing full repayment, and creating disincentives to reduce the economic rationale for sub-legal payments.


Transportation and Low-Wage Work Agenda

The Mobility Agenda also addresses and pursues opportunities to improve acquisition and ownership of private automobiles for low-wage workers in need of reliable, flexible, affordable transportation. We collaborate with low-wage car ownership initiatives; working with stakeholders in states and localities, we pursue means to improve access reliable vehicles, credit for auto loans, drivers’ licenses, and insurance.


New Reports and Presentations from the Good Jobs series:

Work-Life Policies for the Twenty-First Century Economy
by Heather Boushey, Layla Moughari, Sarah Sattelmeyer, and Margy Waller

A New Lens on Policy, PowerPoint Presentation
by Margy Waller

Communicating About Poverty and Low-Wage Work: A New Agenda
by Matthew C. Nisbet

Unions and Upward Mobility for Low-Wage Workers
by John Schmitt, Margy Waller, Shawn Fremstad, and Ben Zipperer

Social Inclusion for the United States
by Heather Boushey, Shawn Fremstad, Rachel Gragg, and Margy Waller

Understanding Low-Wage Work in the United States
by Heather Boushey, Shawn Fremstad, Rachel Gragg, and Margy Waller

Other Resources on our website 


Community Benefits Agreements: Policy for the Twenty-First Century Economy
by Virginia Parks, Dorian Warren, and Margy Waller

Access to Driving and License Suspension Policies for the Twenty-First Century Economy
by Sandra Gustitus, Melody Simmons, and Margy Waller


Transportation Resources – Research and press coverage about benefits of access to driving

Video and Roundtable Materials

Keys to Opportunity: Car Ownership and Financing
Seattle, Washington
October 2008

Economic Driver's License Suspension and Reinstatement Roundtable
Baltimore, Maryland
March 2008

Lessons from the UK and US: Developing Goals for Economic Mobility, Social Inclusion, and Employment
Washington, DC
October 2007

Employment and Housing Mobility Roundtable
National Convening, Baltimore
July 2007

Good Jobs - Columbus, Ohio Roundtable
May 2007

Good Jobs - Seattle, Washington Roundtable
April 2007

Good Jobs - Chicago, Illinois Roundtable
January 2007