A Q&A With An Arlington County Board Candidate
Responses by Christian Dorsey, Candidate for Arlington County Board
Responses received June 2, 2015

America’s Future Workforce (AFW) aims to bring together elected officials, candidates and interested stakeholders for an in-depth conversation on policy and visions for the future of Arlington County, Virginia.

Arlington County is home this year to a competitive Democratic primary race for the county board which includes six candidates. County board candidate Christian Dorsey a proponent of creating a more equitable and just county for all people, including persons from different socioeconomic backgrounds, to live and work. The following question and answer will provide a more in-depth summary of his vision for Arlington, the future of workforce development programs, and unique solutions to oft overlooked, but pressing problems.

Why is economic justice and economic opportunity such an important topic for the residents of Arlington County?
One of my fundamental civic and political values is that hard work should be rewarded with fair wages that allow the earner to live self-sufficiently and with dignity. And, because our labor market will always leave some would-be workers unable to find gainful employment, a responsive safety net must be in place to ensure that those unable to work are not left without means.

Applying these standards of economic justice are also in the best interests of Arlington County. Workers who earn fair wages rely less on public assistance and can spend larger shares of their income in local communities supporting job growth. Workers who earn fair wages result in reduced employee turnover increasing business profits and net tax receipts. Workers who earn fair wages have more stable housing, leading to more continuity is school attendance for their children which is causally linked to increased student performance.

The benefits of workers earning fair wages and having opportunities to develop skills for better jobs apply to the entire community, and as such, all of Arlington should engage in efforts to support living wages for low income workers and to ensure that the workers in the restaurant industry, for example, have resources to combat wage theft; that young workers are not in illegally unpaid internships; that workers are not denied overtime protections; that actual employees are not misclassified as independent contractors, and that undocumented workers are not exploited and denied basic Fair Labor Standards Act protections.

What actionable resolutions can the Arlington County Board take to fight for economic justice?
In Arlington, the County Board plays a critical role in determining the labor standards for its workforce and companies that contract with the County. Our living wage ordinance should be enhanced by inflating it with a unique measure that accounts for local price conditions. Arlington should also issue resolutions and provide resource support to combat wage theft, misclassification, unpaid internships, and FLSA violations.

Another area that requires attention is economic justice for those no longer in the workforce–senior retirees. We must aim to extend property tax relief so that seniors are not priced out of homes that they already own, but can’t maintain because of property tax burdens.

How can we prepare children enrolled in the Arlington County Schools for the workforce?
Children in schools need varied instruction to be prepared for the modern and future workforce. Curricula that leads increased facility with technology is essential, but should not be limited to STEM instruction, but should crosscut with all disciplines.

Project based and experiential learning opportunities will also be critical as knowledge based creativity is an essential skill for students moving forward. In addition to college readiness, students must also have opportunities, beginning in middle school, to explore other careers in trades and other careers that have specific training requirements to help maintain their engagement in school even if they will not follow a four year college path.

Do you think the workforce development center for Arlington County should be revamped to help train people for in-demand jobs?
Worker development centers, though well intentioned, usually lag behind the current demands of employers and are not as useful as desired in preparing workers for available jobs. I support a model that emphasizes employer based training, with worker development centers focused on developing base of the pyramid skills that prepare workers for sectors and industries and not specific jobs.

How can you bring more opportunity to the in-need residents of Arlington County?
I believe opportunity is expanded when a solid floor is established so that those in need are not subject to exploitation, or disproportionately suffer poor outcomes during cyclical downturns. From there, housing available at affordable price points across the workforce is critical to providing workers with the means to participate in the economy and in giving them and their families the stability necessary to build careers and achieve in school.

Schools must receive the resources they need to increase the achievement of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The private sector should also be engaged to either contribute to skills education in our schools, and/or to embrace on the job training and sponsored credentialing.

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Christian Dorsey is the Director of External and Government Affairs at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington DC. EPI is a progressive, non-partisan think tank that conducts ongoing research of our nation’s economy and develops policy proposals to increase economic growth and create broadly shared prosperity. Christian directs the Institute’s work in building awareness of economic policy matters with a goal of educating and mobilizing communities to advocate more effectively on their economic behalf and to advance EPI’s policy initiatives with Congress and the Obama administration. Mr. Dorsey is a frequent commentator on cable news networks having appeared on CNN, CNBC and Fox among others. Prior to joining EPI, Christian served as the chief executive officer for several organizations promoting leadership and diversity, children’s literacy and community development.

Mr. Dorsey has hosted a monthly public affairs talk show that aired on Arlington Independent Media. Christian is also a diversity and communications consultant and has helped many colleges and universities, schools, community groups, non-governmental organizations and area government agencies become more aware of the impact of unintentional bias in their work.

Christian is an alumnus of the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. Mr. Dorsey has been a resident of Arlington, VA since 1993, and is married with two children.

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America’s Future Workforce aims to heighten the awareness of the issues influencing Arlington County and its citizens. In compliance with all 501c3 regulations, all candidates were or will be contacted and asked to partake in this Q&A.

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