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A Small Step to Creating Jobs that Last

February 14th, 2010

February 22nd is a long way off – at least in Washington. That’s when the Senate is scheduled to vote on its latest proposed jobs bill.

Pared down to $15 billion from an original $85 billion, this Senate bill hopes to create new jobs or refill positions that had been emptied over the past couple of years. With 8.4 million people unemployed, that’s no small task.

But one part of the proposed legislation also gives hope to those of us who believe that government can play a role in encouraging private sector employers to work harder to keep people at work for as long as possible, not lay them off as soon as financial trouble looms.

The Senate bill offers businesses a $1,000 tax credit for each new worker hired who stays on the job for at least one year. The money would only be paid out to employers after 52 weeks of steady work.

That’s a good start.

It’s true that much of the stimulus money is targeted on building infrastructure, where construction jobs are traditionally short-term. Critics are quick to argue that this incentive can’t help make those kinds of jobs last longer because it’s a seasonal industry, by nature.

Yet this is the time to challenge what has become the default position for too many senior executives across the economy: in tough times, cutting workers is a quick way to help the bottom line.  Government needs to help change that attitude.

This idea is not new – or radical. In the depths of the Great Depression, Washington and 40 state governments offered tax breaks and other financial incentives to employers who promised – and lived up to the promises – of steady work.

Another possible incentive would be for governments at all levels to grant public contracts only after comparing – all other things being equal – which bidder has the lowest rate of layoffs or the longest average employee tenure.

Spark is a book about Lincoln Electric’s amazing commitment to its workers – which has resulted in many employees with 30 and 40 years of steady work.

Sadly, too many American see 52 weeks on-the-job as a long time. But this small proposal from the Senate should be supported as one way to change that.

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