Transition Rights

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= Transition Rights are about “freedom to explore what [job] you want to do next, without financial devastation.” [1]

See also: Just Transition


"What if losing your job wasn’t a big deal? What if you’re downsized, RIFed, outsourced, laid off, or just plain fired – and you don’t panic, feel like a total loser, get depressed, or go into debt? What if there was no negative stigma involved in losing your job – in fact, what if the idea of “losing” a job became quaintly outmoded, and the idea of making a positive change took its place?

What if you had the freedom to explore what you want to do next, without financial devastation? What if you’re sick of being a lawyer and want to be an organic farmer? What if you’re a bricklayer and want to be a teacher? What if you never had to feel trapped in a job you didn’t like, held hostage by salary and benefits? And what if this were possible?

It can be possible. It’s a concept called “Transition Rights.” Workers would pay into their transition fund much like they now pay into a 401k, with dollars matched by the employer, local or federal government, and possibly also by charitable foundations. So when employees are laid off or just want to change jobs, their transition fund is available.

The idea of transition rights is based in part on the ideas of Amartya Sen, Nobel prize-winning economist and philosopher; Gunther Schmid, a German economist; and Karen Orren, author of “Belated Feudalism.” The basic premise is that workers – whatever color their collars are – should not be treated like serfs, earning their bread at the mercy of the local landlord. If we as a society truly embrace individual freedom and dignity, we must begin to reshape our concept of the employee-employer relationship, which is still referred to in U.S. law as “master-servant.” (


"In exotic northeast Indiana, where all segments of the labor market are far too experienced in unemployment and transtions, the Workers’ Project is connecting the ideas of Sen, Schmid and Orren to working reality. There is wide recognition that the economy has been broken on the heads of workers but will be fixed by their ingenuity and initiative. Employment attorney Alan VerPlanck along with UP board member and Northeast Indiana Central Labor Council president Tom Lewandowski believe the best hope for implementation of transition benefits programs may be at the local labor market level. While transition rights are currently only at a developmental stage, Lifelong Learning Accounts (LiLAs) are a similar concept already in effect in several states and are embraced by dozens of companies. LiLAs are employer-matched, portable, employee-owned accounts used to finance education and training. Senate Bill S 26 proposes the establishment of a federal demonstration program for such accounts. The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) strongly endorses LiLAs." (

More Information

  1. For more information see also: Transition Fund.
  2. Just Transition