Marilyn Watkins is Policy Director at the Economic Opportunity Institute, a Washington State-based nonprofit policy center dedicated to building an economy that works for everyone. Her research and advocacy focus on workplace policies and public investments that promote gender, racial, and income equality. She spearheaded legislative victories for paid family and medical leave, paid sick days, and gender equity. On the national stage, she advises policy development and is a frequent speaker on equitable access to benefits and family economic security. She is a Clinical Assistant Professor in Health Services at the University of Washington and serves on Washington’s Paid Family and Medical Leave Advisory Committee and Seattle’s Labor Standards Advisory Commission.
Our social safety net has failed to keep up with 21st-century realities. In the U.S., where many key aspects of the social safety net are tied to traditional, full-time employment, an estimated 1 in 10 workers get their primary source of income from non-traditional work which offers limited or no access to benefits—like paid leave, health insurance, retirement savings, and unemployment insurance—that are central to economic security and mobility. With the changing nature of work, the number of individuals and families that depend on non-traditional work for all or supplemental portions of their income is growing, meaning those lacking access to social safety nets is also growing. The current system fosters inequality and precarity, but emerging models for portable benefits systems—where benefits are attached to the individual and enable all workers to accrue, contribute to, and manage key benefits—show a path forward. Join us to learn more about these examples and the business role in advancing economic security and mobility through portable benefits, one element of BSR’s work to advance 21st-century social contracts.
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I felt this conference was life changing. I am truly inspired and am plotting both career and personal changes to live up to the great lessons I learned. Both the sessions and the networking were vital.