Quitting is a sign of empowered workers. Let’s empower them more through Unemployment Insurance.

Quitters never prosper, right? Think again: for rank-and-file workers, quitting is a good sign that they have the financial means to leave a crummy employer or the confidence knowing they’ll be snagged by a better one. If more workers are empowered enough to quit, employers in general would also have to compete more effectively with each other—offer higher salaries and better benefits.

I-quit-post-it-noteTo take advantage of those dynamics to help boost wages and repair the labor market, Nick Bunker at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth proposes an interesting idea in Democracy Journal: change the rules to allow workers who quit their job to access unemployment insurance, not just those who are fired or laid off.

By strengthening workers’ financial cushion during periods of unemployment, the idea is that the new policy would increase their negotiating power to demand higher wages—and make it financially possible for them to make good on the threat. It might not be obvious, but the proposal would also benefit employers by expanding the pool of potential job candidates who may turn out to be better matches for their firms.

In a strong, well-functioning economy, the scenario for rank-and-file Americans would be a labor market where the balance of power is on the side of the little guy rather than powerful executives. Reality for too many Americans today is instead an economy where they’re forced to cling to bad jobs and scrape by on middling paychecks. In fact, the rate at which people are quitting their jobs is lower than it was in 2000. Bunker’s proposal is meant to help reverse these troubling trends.

For more information, see “Quitters Prosper,” Democracy Journal (2016).

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