Tom believes that our children deserve a better future than we have today. And as a civil rights attorney, lifelong ally of the labor movement, and career champion of working families; Tom knows the best way to secure that bright future is to do the work to set up a true win-win: creating good, secure jobs in our communities so the economy thrives, and ensuring that Marylanders have the in-demand skills they need to thrive in those jobs.
Even before the pandemic, Maryland had a severe equity problem. In the last half century, incomes for the top 1% of Maryland households have more than doubled (after adjusting for inflation), while typical wages have only increased 13% (0.3% AGR). More than 100,000 Marylanders have family incomes below the federal poverty line. And people of color fared worse than their white counterparts, and women found it even tougher than men.
Now, the pandemic has exacerbated the disparities in our state. Leaving those of us who had little with less. As we look to the future, we need bold leadership to make big structural changes to close the wealth gap, combat racism, level the playing field and secure an equitable and just future for every Marylander.
And this is not only a crisis for Marylander’s workers. Even as we are leaving people behind, our state’s businesses cannot find the talent they need to grow. Talk with almost any company and you’ll hear that an inability to find talent stunts their growth. If our economy is going to thrive, we must give Marylanders the skills they need for good jobs, because the talent of Marylanders, from all zip codes, is the best foundation from which our state can compete in an increasing global market.
None of this is sustainable.
But out of adversity often arises opportunity. In a study by Pew 66% of folks making ends meet with UI during the pandemic are looking to change their career direction post-COVID. When people gather up the sheer resilience to strike out on something as daunting as a new career, their government needs to step up to support them. We must harness the demand for talent of our state’s business, and then train, connect and support Marylanders eager to fill these in-demand roles.
Nothing is easier to say, and harder to do. It takes a leader with the focus, passion and presence to convene CEOs, align a vast array of public sector entities – from CTE program to community colleges – and relentlessness holds everyone accountable to this shared vision. Tom is the only person in the race who can do all this.
After Tom ran Maryland’s labor department for Governor O’Malley, he was appointed by President Obama to be the United States Secretary of Labor in 2013, Tom led over 17,000 employees, a multi-billion dollar budget, and had a presence in every state and three territories. Throughout his time in that position, he assisted in creating over 125,000 apprenticeships, crafted innovative national workforce development initiatives, and all the while protecting workers rights to fair wages and paid sick leave, while consistently ensuring enforcing equality.
Tom understands if we are going to have a Maryland economy that thrives, then we need to bring all Marylanders in on the effort. As Governor, he will stand up for Maryland’s working families by fighting for things such as income equality, affordable childcare, collective bargaining, pensions, paid family leave, a more progressive tax system, fair wages, unemployment insurance that functions, and real investments in workforce development so everyone in this state can win.
Workforce Development: Expand EARN MD dramatically
Launched in the last years of the O’Malley Administration, EARN MD is a sector-based, demand-driven workforce solution grant program housed at the Maryland Department of Labor that funds efforts conceived by business with a job waiting at the end of the training for those who complete.
The most important thing about training programs created through EARN is that they are tethered to demand in the labor market right now. Investments focused through the EARN lens drive workforce development innovation in community colleges, in non- and for-profit training organizations, apprenticeships and in CTE programs. EARN can and should be the mechanism that drives systemic change in how the workforce actors in our state operate, grows our economy by giving our companies the talent they need to compete, and provides Marylanders the opportunities and support to land a real job.
While EARN has kept afloat in the Hogan years, it has yet to be utilized the way other states and cities have. On day one of Tom’s administration, it is time to take EARN to the next level by:
- Expanding the number and reach of EARN partnerships into all the state’s regions and businesses, large and small.
- Leading from the front personally and making EARN an “Assistant Secretary” level program, giving it the clout it needs.
- Increasing funding to EARN both with state sources, but also by tapping Washington for more federal dollars to invest into the program.
- Modernizing the program (e.g., tech, granting, accounting) so it is easier to use for the business partnerships, and is able to bring the just-in-time, generous supports like daycare or transportation to participants. These investments in people make all the difference. If you are willing to contribute your talent to your community, Tom's administration will be there to support you, because our state needs your talents.
Small Businesses & Worker Protection:
Maryland’s small businesses are the backbone of our economy and make up 99.5 percent of total businesses in the state. Small businesses are a vital economic force in our state as they create steady job opportunities that hire and employ more than 1 million Marylanders. Protecting small businesses and workers rights are imperative to ensuring a growing economy. Small businesses were hit the hardest from the Covid-19 pandemic, and over 30,000 small businesses in total were forced to close their doors permanently. The 2021 RELIEF Act supported the hundreds of thousands of small businesses within our state by providing them with immediate financial relief, and as Governor, Tom is committed to expanding opportunities to allow small businesses to grow as we all begin to recover from the novel coronavirus together. Tom also understands that diverse small business ownership is key to Maryland’s economy and future. We must especially support small businesses in low-income areas and those owned by minorities, women, and veterans, as these businesses often do not have the same access to capital and opportunities to allow them to grow and thrive.
Maryland’s Workplace Fraud Act focuses on employee misclassification in the construction and landscaping industries. With the growing gig economy, especially during the pandemic, it is more important than ever to classify workers accurately. Misclassifying an employee as an independent contractor avoids taxes, unemployment insurance, social security, Medicaid, and Medicare. As former state and federal Labor Secretary, Tom knows how important this issue is to securing a just and equitable future.
During his time as the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Labor, Tom focused hard on fighting against workplace fraud by helping to implement the Workplace Fraud Act of 2009, a bill that imposed penalties on employers who misclassified their employees as independent contractors, that would help fight tax evasion by employers and work to protect workers rights and health insurance benefits to the employees. As Governor, Tom will fight for workers and demand that employers properly compensate all citizens working in Maryland. Tom will continue to be a champion for the everyday hardworking individuals in the State by striving to ensure proper worker classification, enforcing that requirements be met by employers, educating workers of their rights and benefits, and working overall for an ethical workplace by employers and for workers.
The coronavirus pandemic and economic fallout laid bare a lot of issues and disparities in our state, and an unemployment insurance program that was not there when we needed it was among them. According to a U.S. Census Bureau economic analysis, Maryland was among the 10 worst states in the country at handling the influx of UI claims during the first months of the pandemic. This caused Marylanders who were put out of work during the pandemic to face extremely long waits for benefits on top of a very low response rate from the Unemployment Insurance system. Everyone knows someone whose job was affected negatively by the pandemic, yet the UI system completely failed thousands of Marylanders when they needed it most. We must work to fix the unemployment system now so that it does not fail again and further hurt our fellow Marylanders.
As Governor, Tom and his administration will overhaul the UI from the ground up so that it is the safety net that it is intended to be. Tom will use the perspective and experience gained from his time running both the United States Department of Labor as well as the Maryland Department of Labor to completely reimagine the administration of UI. Normally none of us find “good government” super-interesting, but when you need government in an emergency you really appreciate having someone running things who is not at his first rodeo.
Maryland’s Department of Labor was completely unprepared to handle the exponential increase of unemployment claims that occurred due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Accountability will be a central value of Tom’s administration, and it clearly was not for Larry Hogan’s administration. At a press conference on July 15, 2021 Governor Hogan announced that the state had uncovered more than 47,500 fraudulent unemployment claims totaling more than $501 million. This money comes out of the pockets of Maryland businesses, and there was no accountability. Also, time after time people were not paid benefits they were due, and Larry Hogan did and said nothing. In fact, the only thing he finally did was to look a federal gift horse in the mouth. His decision to cut off federal UI benefits early cost Marylanders $544 million, and denied Maryland’s business of $877 million in impact to local spending. How to do a worse job is hard to imagine.
Tom will listen to, understand, and invest in the people. Fixing UI is not only about technology, but it is about freeing the dedicated state employees at UI to do their jobs better. No group of the state workforce felt the pain of the pandemic in their job more than those trying to help Marylanders navigate byzantine UI red tape. This is why a Tom administration’s UI reform will focus on building technology that handles the easy claims, and steers the truly complicated claims to the experts, so there is always a person Marylanders can reach when they are stuck. Tom will work with the employees and engage the union in the reform. No one knows how to get UI fixed better than the front-line folks, but they have to be able to speak their mind about what is broken. Our unionized state workers are Maryland’s secret weapon to fixing UI, and Tom will tap them.
Maryland laws drive how complicated the steps to paying a UI benefit are. Tom’s administration, in partnership with business, labor and members of the General Assembly will use the lesson of the pandemic to reform the UI law to streamline paying benefits, while protecting business.
Being among the best, and not among the worst, at delivering UI benefits is not about money, one big idea, or one leader. Avoiding another debacle in UI is about urgent reform, followed up by urgent and sustained implementation and execution. Tom will fix UI like he has so many other things, because he has the experience and passion necessary to fix the hard problems, that if not fixed, are massive failures and will affect Marylanders negatively across the state.