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2020 Equal Dignity and Respect for

Human Beings Committee Report

Introduction and Summary of Major Positions

The well-being of a society depends on the physical, mental, emotional, and economic well-being of its constituents; yet vast segments of Utah’s population are being left behind, year after year, in spite of the importance of their contributions to our state’s economy. Women, racial and ethnic minorities, and LGBTQ individuals represent more than half of the state’s population, and policymakers must do more to understand and address their needs and aspirations if Utah is to achieve the robust economic future to which it aspires.

The coronavirus pandemic, recession, and civil unrest have drawn attention to realities that can no longer be ignored, including longstanding gender and racial inequities in our state’s economy. When states ordered schools and restaurants shut down and small businesses closed, 60 percent of the eliminated jobs were held by women;[i] and many more were made dramatically more precarious due to the loss of care services for children, the elderly, the sick, and those with disabilities. Higher COVID infection rates among racial and ethnic minority groups present compelling evidence of the physical, economic, and emotional challenges those communities face.[ii]

An expansive vision of the under-utilized potential of Utah’s increasingly diverse population is essential as Utah rebuilds post pandemic, to sweep away barriers and open doors of opportunity and economic dignity for all, and to ensure a robust economy for Utah in the years ahead. The following priorities are expanded in the material in subsequent pages.

  • Utah’s future economic well-being is critically dependent upon the work of women, minorities, and LGBTQ people. Policymakers, governmental entities, educators, health care providers, economic development advocates, and employers all need to better understand Utah’s rapidly changing demographic trends and develop opportunities for our changing local population that reduce discriminatory impacts on their employment.
  • Authentic dialogue with women and representatives of Utah’s minority communities on specific challenges they face would help illuminate the compelling stories behind the statistics and unequivocally illustrate how current public policies unfairly impact the lives of real people and real families throughout our state.
  • Transitioning to a minimum wage of $15/hour would serve to lift a significant percentage of the population out of poverty and put even more individuals and families on the path to economic dignity, security, and success.
  • The Governor’s Office of Economic Development should assess the adequacy of its approach to bringing jobs to Utah in ways that highlight the experience of women, minorities, and LGBTQ individuals in the economy. Well-paying jobs for non-college-educated women and minorities should be a high priority, as well as policies that promote wealth acquisition among low-income minorities.
  • Criminal justice reform is a critically important component of the work before policymakers in addressing the needs of minority communities, but it cannot succeed in the absence of well-paying employment opportunities, access to safe and affordable housing, access to good schools, child care, health care, and community-conscious safety and emergency services.

[i] “Women This Week: The Gendered Effects of COVID-19”, Council on Foreign Relations, April 10, 2020, accessed June 15, 2020, https://www.cfr.org/blog/women-week-gendered-effects-covid-19.

[ii] “Social Determinants of Health,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, accessed August 25, 2020, https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/social-determinants-of-health.