Resilience Force Proposal

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= "a “resilience force” — a New Deal–style federal jobs program designed to staff disaster recovery efforts".


Zoë Schlanger:

"Saket Soni, the longtime labor organizer and founder of the National Guestworker Alliance, has lately put his focus on advocating for a “resilience force”—a New Deal–style federal jobs program designed to staff disaster recovery efforts. He and his colleagues at Resilience Force originally imagined their initiative as a response to wreckage caused by climate change. Crucially, it would do away with the citizenship requirement currently barring non-citizen workers from joining FEMA’s ranks. Already, the workers hired in places like coastal Florida to rebuild after storms tend to be undocumented, and as the New York Times has reported, they are prone to abuse by their employers, who can withhold pay without consequence. These workers are crucial to recovery; they’re often the first to arrive to scenes of devastation. They cart away the rubble.

When the pandemic struck, it was obvious that the same structure ought to encompass jobs to respond to this type of disaster, too. “We think that’s really the missing piece in the American recovery plan, and business leaders agree that it’s necessary. Every industry on the front lines is talking about the labor shortage,” Soni told me recently.

One of the roles he envisions for the resilience force reminds me of the mutual aid groups currently operating in nearly every New York City neighborhood. He pictures a new fleet of community health workers who would do welfare checks and guide people to medical resources they need, relieving pressure on the overwhelmed healthcare system. “It’s a very broad role, but it’s a rigorous role. People are already doing it; caring for each other,” he said. Another role would be an “emergency navigator,” modeled after the jobs of those hired in the Obama era to navigate insurance exchange portals. “They would figure out how to get your FEMA check, or an assessment on your broken roof.” Coastal areas are already home to people who, after previous storms, became experts in these byzantine systems out of necessity.

Once one imagines the government as an employer that turns mutual aid into meaningful work, it’s not hard to imagine it also employing thousands of people to transition the country off of fossil fuels, too." (