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Will the Real Good Job Please Stand Up?

A version of this post also appeared in the Huffington Post.

Street Sweeper

If you read the New York Times, you have probably been inundated by trend articles about Ivy league graduates who are choosing the organic locally-sourced taco truck route over finance. If you’re college-educated and work in an office on one of the coasts, your social media feeds are likely buzzing with articles about the pros and cons of top tech companies paying for egg freezing and offering unlimited vacation. While it’s exciting to see the mainstream media engaging in an explicit conversation about job quality in America, we feel the scope of that conversation needs to be expanded.

Maybe in addition to talking about what the “unreasonably high” standards for employees at Amazon, we should be talking about the unreasonably low standards we, as a nation, have for American jobs.

Last week, we learned that the US economy grew at a rate of 3.7 percent in the second quarter of the year—much more than expected. Yet, the highest economic growth rate in a decade is not being felt by a majority of Americans. Too many people are still stuck in a trap door economy, living paycheck to paycheck and often with part-time, “gig”-based, no-benefits jobs.

At Purpose we partner with leading institutions and activists to solve some of the most pressing global issues. Over the past few months we’ve been hearing the same thing over and over, from Fortune 500 CEOs to grassroots activists and everyone in between: We need to talk about good jobs in America.

This conversation is already happening, and the voices are getting louder—we just don’t always connect the dots. The Times’ Amazon exposé. The inspiring Fight for 15 movement of fast food workers. Changes in scheduling practices at Starbucks, Gap and other large companies. The debate sparked by Netflix’s extending unlimited paid parental leave to its employees. The proliferation of city-based minimum wage mandates in Los Angeles and elsewhere. Jeb Bush’s curious contention that we could fix the economy if we all just worked longer hours. These stories appear in different corners of the media, so we’re tempted to think about them in isolation—but they are actually all one conversation. We’ve been calling it the Summer of Good Jobs.

Ask yourself: What is a good job in America in 2015? The notion of a “traditional” job: 30 years in the same place, with a steadily rising salary and a host of generous benefits, an arrangement founded on two-way loyalty are a relic of a bygone era. Yet, new models like the sharing economy—with its promise of new wage-earning opportunities for more people—have not yet realized their potential, often bringing unstable pay and trivial or no benefits.

With this missing piece in mind we launched a national campaign called Workshift to help unite, elevate, and enrich the national conversation about job quality in America in the best way we know how: by talking to people all around the country and collecting personal stories about what makes a good job.

Good jobs look different for different people—and even look different for each person at different points in her life. But we found that almost everyone—across industries, generations and everywhere on the political spectrum—agreed that good jobs are marked by four simple, common values: stability, flexibility, opportunity, and pride.

Because our jobs are as different as we are, these values mean different things to different people. Talking to thousands of people online and through a series of interactive installations around the country—this is what we heard:

If these ideas resonate with you, add your voice to the voices of thousands of people across the country. Join the conversation this Labor Day by using the hashtag #GoodJobsForAll. Tell us what a good job means to you and help us make American jobs work for Americans everywhere.

The Summer of Good Jobs may be almost over, but the era of good jobs is just beginning.

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