The People's Forum

Local primary elections are on March 5th. Do you know who your candidates are for San Bernardino city council? Your issues matter. Your voice matters. Your vote is important! Get informed before you cast your vote.

Inland Empire: Ground Zero

In recent decades, the Inland Empire region has become ground-zero for a startling growth in low-wage jobs, poor working conditions, and environmental degradation. Most of this growth has been led by five specific industries; health care, retail, food service, education, and the goods-movement/logistics industries. While every one of these job categories are overrepresented in the Inland Empire, the fastest growing jobs segment lies in logistics and warehousing industries, which directly connect the Inland Empire to the Ports of Los Angeles. To better understand residents’ experiences and perceptions of the current labor market in San Bernardino, we surveyed 4223 residents about several of the most important issues that impact them. These issues included economic opportunities, health issues, jobs, and incarceration.

The Inland Empire Labor Council is comprised of more than 80 unions which represent more than 300,000 workers across the 27,269 square mile region spanning across both Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The struggles of most communities, from housing to political representation, are eventually dealt with at the employment level. Fair wages, jobs with benefits, and access to workforce development programs all present opportunities to ameliorate some of the harshest circumstances faced by residents of the Inland Empire.

Labor and the entrepreneurial spirit

We asked participants to consider their overall economic situation over the last three years and whether this situation had changed or not.

    On the topic of work and employment, we asked participants to describe their present status in terms of being 1) employed full-time, 2) employed part-time, or 3) unemployed. In addition, we asked participants to identify the types of industries in which they work. A full 20% of participants stated that they are currently unemployed. This is a tremendously disheartening statistic considering that the overall unemployment rate throughout the state of California sits at 5.8%. Another 20% reported having part-time employment. Lastly, 36.6% stated that they were employed as full time workers.

    When asked to indicate the types of industries in which they worked, the most commonly reported industries were warehousing and logistics at 14.2%, education at 11%, and retail work at 9%. Importantly, this reflects the recent trend of warehousing and logistics industries flooding the region with largely low-wage jobs with little job security and a greater risk of job related injury.

      Only 16.4% of respondents indicated that their overall economic situation had improved. While 42% stated that their economic situation remained the same. Sadly, over a quarter (27.9%) of those included in the survey shared that they are economically worse off than they were three years ago.

      Despite the fact that research highlights an overall dearth of stable job opportunities in the region, we found that there is a strong spirit of entrepreneurship among residents. More than half of residents surveyed (60.5%) stated that they would start their own business if start-up funds were available. To us, this demonstrates the potential and overall commitment that residents have for participating as equal partners in the city’s long-term plans for economic recovery.

      We can do it: San Bernardino Community’s Solutions

      The City is in a position to be a leader in the creation of good, sustainable jobs, not only by concentrating on current employment needs, but also with having a vision for the future. Logistics remains a major component to the overall economic infrastructure of the region. However, innovative practices that can help move the industries to more sustainable and environmentally conscious modes will be imperative to create thriving communities in the region. Among the top concerns identified by community members who participated in our survey are the overall lack of opportunities for job skills development, apprenticeships, and availability of sustainable jobs that provide living wages.

      The City is in a position to be a leader in the creation of good, sustainable jobs, not only by concentrating on current employment needs, but also with having a vision for the future. Logistics remains a major component to the overall economic infrastructure of the region. However, innovative practices that can help move the industries to more sustainable and environmentally conscious modes will be imperative to create thriving communities in the region. Among the top concerns identified by community members who participated in our survey are the overall lack of opportunities for job skills development, apprenticeships, and availability of sustainable jobs that provide living wages. 

      With this in mind, we make the following recommendations:

      1. We recommend that the city invest in a more robust employment infrastructure. This should include the identification of “good employers” who are willing to develop partnerships with organized labor organizations such as unions and worker centers, to offer trainings for new workers and support retraining and upskilling of incumbent workers for green jobs.
      1. Engagement with existing “high-road” jobs programs that focus on sustainable partnerships between labor and employers that create and expand opportunities for access of living-wage jobs and safe working conditions.
      1. Our survey data show that residents feel like they are left in the dark regarding opportunities for apprenticeships and job training. Therefore, the city should increase its efforts to foster and promote these opportunities for community residents.
      1. Investment in local entrepreneurship. As San Bernardino is exploring long-term strategies for the city’s development, plans should include small business incentives that both prioritize local entrepreneurs and local hiring.
      1. Encouragement of community benefits agreements to be put in place with developers vying for contracts within the city.
      1. Increase the number of affordable housing units made available to community members. With the sharp rise in the cost of housing, displacement is a major concern and needs to be tackled concurrently with the city’s development.
      1. San Bernardino’s most vulnerable and historically excluded populations need to be a central consideration. Justice-involved BIPOC workers and youth should be included in recruitment strategies in any and all plans for workforce development. This can be done with the close collaboration of local community-based organizations, including, but not limited to, those that comprise the Just SB collaborative.
      1. Prepare for future jobs. Along with the growth in logistics comes an increased demand for automation. Investment in job training for the current labor market will likely be rendered obsolete in the next few years. As more of the industry sectors pivot toward automation, programs that transition workers who might otherwise face displacement need to be created and prioritized.