By Synarus Green
Jackson Advocate Guest Writer
“I pity the man who wants a coat so cheap that the man or woman who produces the cloth will starve in the process.” – Benjamin Harrison
In our house, we believed that able-bodied men and women should work and become productive citizens in their communities. We believed that America owes each of its citizens an equal opportunity to get an education in order to prepare him or herself for the workplace. And, finally, we are convinced that when America pays its workers livable wages, families can thrive, businesses can grow, and our nation and economy is able to rise to unbelievable levels of sustainability. We also believed that without jobs and livable wages, our nation’s economy will continue to suffer and the resulting burdens and costs of poverty will be passed on from one generation to the next.
On last Friday, I was invited to join a group of scholars, students, and workforce advocates at Jackson State University’s College of Science, Engineering and Technology Auditorium for a serious conversation about creating jobs and improving job quality in Mississippi. Considering the topic and its impact on our economy, there should have been a stadium of concerned job seekers, policy and lawmakers, educators, manufactures, and business leaders in the meeting. However, there was only modest attendance. Nonetheless, those of us who showed up learned enough to be concerned about Mississippi’s job market, and we were inspired and committed to move forward to improve the quality of life for Mississippians.
With so many Mississippians stifled with the persistent pain of poverty, much of the discussion focused on dispelling the myths held by businesses that make the claim that Mississippi lacks a viable workforce or that we lack the capacity to educate the workforce they say they need. We know we have a citizenry who are ready to work but we also have outstanding trade schools, colleges, universities, and junior colleges prepared to give them all the tools they’ll need to do the work.
Dr. Bernice S. Hubert and her team, supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Jobs to Move America Forward organization, were right on the mark with the common sense approach of looking at the manufacturing needs of Mississippi and neighboring states. Their research exposed the predatory practices of many manufacturing companies who target the distressed communities of the South to maximize profits over people. A scheme rooted in the belief that Southerners are so eager to provide our laborers with jobs that we will settle for lower wages, with fewer benefits, rights, and protections; guarantees offered through state legislation; or organized unions in other states they’d rather avoid.
For decades, communities across our cities, counties, and state have given away billions in tax dollars and subsidies to entice businesses to locate in Mississippi. Unfortunately, more times than not, these businesses pull up stakes in less than twenty years, or the minimum they have to stay, then leave when their tax set-a-sides lapse. Essentially, this leaves too many of our communities no better off than before the businesses arrived.
Mississippi must develop policies that encourage the creation of new jobs that pay livable wages. We must set business standards that promote good jobs, good health care, and retirement packages that won’t leave our state high and dry with joblessness and poverty. Employers and workers have obligations to each other that must be respected by our legislative and executive branches of government. Moreover, Mississippi must send the message that we are not a cheap state that sells its workers’ skills and talents for a dime on the dollar. We must consider the overall worth of all of our workers and their families. Then, Mississippi’s lawmakers can demand that businesses who locate in our state guarantee the production of profitable products built and shipped by workers who are educated, trained, and committed to Mississippi’s economic strength. That certainly was my resolve at the end of the session.
Synarus Green is a graduate of Jackson State University with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree. He earned his MBA from Millsaps College – Else School of Business. Currently, he is the President of Green Consulting, LLC and is a candidate for Mississippi House of Representatives – House District 72.