Community Benefits Agreements: Policy for the Twenty-First Century Economy

Abstract

 

Low-wage work is one of the defining issues of our time. One in three jobs in the United States pays low wages, directly contributing to the lowest rates of economic mobility and the highest rates of income inequality in this country since the Great Depression. In less than a decade, community benefits agreements—legally binding agreements negotiated between developers and broad-based coalitions of community and labor organizations—have strengthened local labor markets by transforming thousands of low-wage jobs into good, living wage and/or union jobs. Community benefits agreements (CBAs) have also provided access to jobs and job training for local neighborhood residents most affected by new developments in their communities. In this report, we examine the core components of CBAs that address low-wage work, strengthen local labor markets, and advance the goals of social and economic inclusion. We offer brief examples of successful community benefits agreements campaigns that highlight how and why CBAs are the best approach to consider when community resources are at stake.  Finally, we recommend policy initiatives to strengthen and increase the opportunities for using these agreements.