CEJ believes that economic development should be about long-term, sustainable growth, not silver bullet projects and ribbon cuttings for elected officials or business as usual that only benefits corporations. Economic development should respond to the needs articulated by people and communities themselves.
Instead of handing out tax breaks to businesses with no strings attached, we must ensure that public money actually enhances the public good. Our vision of accountable economic development centers on creating and preserving good jobs for communities in need, building and maintaining what people want in their communities, and promoting diverse, affordable, and sustainable communities.
Upstate areas like Buffalo have been facing decades of economic decline, with increasing unemployment, stagnant wages, and “sprawl without growth.” Publicly-subsidized development has done little to counter the trend.
CEJ believes that these challenges must be faced through organizing our members, building multi-sector coalitions, education for the public and elected officials, and providing consistent avenues of community input to economic development plans.
A CEJ launched initiative that has developed into a separate organization, the Partnership for the Public Good, helps to develop policy and provide action research to support our accountable economic development work. At the state level, we’ve worked with the Alliance for a Greater New York, or ALIGN, to develop and advance accountable development policies. Action at both local and state levels is crucial for long-term, sustainable economic recovery for all New Yorkers.
CEJ was formed on the principle of solidarity – “being there” for someone else’s struggle as well as your own. For over two decades now CEJ has “been there” for workers who are organizing, bargaining for a contract, battling in court or otherwise standing up for their rights.
Guided by our vision of a world in which those most affected by injustice use their power to reverse the trends of inequality, we believe that workers organized into a strong labor movement are the most effective force in battling corporate greed and building a more just society. Worker initiatives we have supported include fighting outsourcing, layoffs, and wage and benefits cuts; confronting anti-union activities; advocating for high quality and affordable health care; and pushing for fair living wages.
By ensuring that workers and their families are taken care of, we promote the idea that jobs should keep workers out of poverty, not in it. Workers and families then have higher purchasing power, which can stimulate the local economy as well. Additionally, by advocating for financial and health security for all, we can reduce the overall burden on taxpayers by reducing the need for dependency on public assistance such as food stamps and Medicaid.
Additionally, as part of the Jobs with Justice network, we support national efforts to improve the lives of working families through grassroots action, education, and legislative victories.
CEJ believes that economic justice is not merely limited to the workplace, but extends to our environment as well. A sustainable future is essential to the health and well-being of our communities, and the transition from a fossil fuel-based economy is crucial to mitigate the harmful environmental impacts which disproportionately fall upon communities of color and poor, working class folks. Workers should not have to provide their labor power only to return to a polluted or devalued home and community. Thus, climate and environmental justice must be discussed in conjunction with economic justice.
A transition to less extractive and more environmentally sound business practices requires a similar transition for workers within a changing economy. A voice at the workplace, a place at the table in community development, wages to support families, and education opportunities for new economic initiatives in response to environmental change are important aspects that CEJ Buffalo brings to the new Just Transitions Collaborative, which unites a number of Buffalo-based organizations in advocating for structural economic change and energy democracy.
CEJ is also committed to combating the falsehood spread by many multi-million dollar corporations that protecting our environment hurts jobs. CEJ firmly believes that we can ensure the health of our communities while advancing economic equity as well, and that we can create a more sustainable future that begins to realize the goals of High Road Economic Development.