• § Word from the author
  • § Summary of the Essential Workers Model
  • § The Three Principles of the Essential Workers Model
  • § Benefits of the Essential Workers Model
  • § Detail numbers on the Essential Workers Model
  • § Conclusion

§ Word from the author:

Our basic human needs have been commoditized so that we can conveniently obtain them if we have enough money. In the rush to create infrastructure for monetary gains, we have made access to modern conveniences secondary for many members of society. We have neglected to offer them access to that same infrastructure or the means to create their own if they so choose. These problems manifest themselves in different ways:

 • We create more food than people have time to buy.

 • We build more houses than people have access to live in.

 • We have less time to create healthy social interactions because we overwork the population that has jobs.

 • We have fewer people making the decisions on how to use common water and other environmental elements.

 • We have college-educated people with sufficient job skills, but not enough careers in their field in which to use them.

 • The non-consensual and negatively symptomatic constructs of oppression and isolation create shorter life spans and harsh living experiences.

The solutions we are looking for live in the same space as the problems we are struggling with. My proposal for an alternative to the current social service model is so simple that it only takes a few paragraphs to explain. It takes a great deal more explanation to prove that this change for one group of people does not inherently mean harm to another group. Historically in this country progress for one group of people has always meant harm to a different group of people, often in the form of exploitative labor. As that has been the societal norm, it’s reasonable for people to be wary of progress. The culture of harm is deeply ingrained in our society but very many of the systems that incite harm can be changed in our lifetime without violence or the vilification of others for their past involvement in those systems. The model I am introducing, the Essential Workers Model takes into account the diversity of work ethics in this county to create work that is consensual and sustainable.

§ Summary of the Essential Workers Model

The Essential Workers Model is a county-wide worker program that makes basic needs accessible to people regardless of social standing, income, ability, or skill-set. The Essential Workers Model adds up the collective hours of human labor related to basic human needs (natural food, clean water, shelter from the elements, collective infrastructure, and consensual education) needed to sustain the entire county. Then it divides that number of collective hours of labor by the number of people willing to do the work. People would only need to work a minimum of 8-14 hours a week to have consistent access to their basic needs. If we use the Essential Workers Model just for our basic needs, we can still participate in a competitive for-profit economy for the things that we want. The Essential Workers Model is not a replacement the for profit economy: the exchange of minimal work for basic needs does not include monetary compensation and therefore is not in direct competition with the for-profit economy. Society could inherently have a way of giving everyone a chance to get what they need by doing what they can.

Any person can choose to work in the Essential Workers Model for their basic needs or opt-out and earn both their needs and their wants from the for-profit economy. With the Essential Workers Model in place, the economy (that supplies people’s wants) will only be made stronger and more competitive when people have their basic needs met. Hundreds of people, who rely on a second or third job to pay for all of their basic needs, can leave their second or third job for the security of the Essential Workers Model. This will open up the job market for those who don’t have any jobs at all. Entrepreneurs can work the minimum of 8-14 hours a week in the Essential Workers Model and have more time and money to focus on their small businesses. Small business owners unable to offer full-time jobs can offer part-time jobs to employees who are already receiving their basic needs in the Essential Workers Model.

To operate, the Essential Workers Model a smaller fraction of the current tax revenue that is already generated (by the for-profit economy) for social services will be used to acquire materials and equipment for the production of basic needs. Current social services rely solely on tax revenue to buy, distribute, and administrate a limited amount of basic needs without allowing the benefactors to contribute anything to the production process. Alternatively, the Essential Workers Model asks participating people for a minimum of 8-14 hours of work per week in exchange for their basic needs. People who are not participating directly in the Essential Workers Model will also benefit from the amazing amount of extra work in the public sectors, work that will improve streets, create safe neighborhoods, better public education, speedier trials, and many other functions of the cities and county that exist outside of the for-profit economic model.

§ The three principles

There are three principles that will help you understand the Essential Workers Model as it relates to an individual’s freedom within the context of society. These principles also serve as guidelines for the Essential Workers Model.

  1. Time

The amount of time an individual has to devote to themselves outside of someone else’s agenda. This may include time spent pursuing passions, creating, and being with friends and family. The ideal of the Essential Workers Model is to minimize the amount of time individuals spend earning their basic needs. 

  1. Agency

Because the Essential Workers Model makes basic needs accessible to everyone participating in it, each person will have the freedom to make decisions for themselves based on their own thoughts, feelings, and desires, not based on pursuing their basic needs.

  1. Consent

The ability for an individual to make choices to pursue life, liberty, and happiness, including, but not limited to occupation, decisions regarding personal relationship dynamics, religious practice, and health. This includes the ability to make these decisions based on transparent information and in full knowledge of their positive and negative consequences.

§ Benefits of the Essential Workers Model:

Because people’s basic needs will already be met in the Essential Workers Model, people will be more deliberate about where they spend their money in the for-profit economy.

The Essential Workers Model on the county level allows people to collectively own physical resources, materials and even natural public spaces (rivers and land) to be transmuted into basic needs. These can’t be bought or sold privately but only used in the Essential Workers Model. This will keep the production of basic needs local which will provide work for local people. Producing basic needs locally protects people from the fluctuations of the global economy in regards to the production of those same basic needs for profits.

The Essential Workers Model provides security for family members unable to find jobs, people looking to start a business venture, and people who want to innovate or create a new stream of income because they can always enroll in the Essential Workers Model to access their basic needs.

Because some big businesses hire solely for profit they have a rigid workload and do not offer a living wage, sick leave, or benefits. The Essential Workers Model will be in place to secure every worker’s basic needs in case they are not met by their other job.

The Essential Workers Model does not make a profit by selling what it produces; rather what it produces goes directly to the people enrolled in the Essential Workers Model giving the Essential Workers the power to slow down the pace of work. Essential Workers will have a smaller workload or work requirements and more flexible hours adaptable to peoples’ lifestyles and disabilities. The Essential Workers Model can offer meaningful work to people who otherwise would not get hired by for-profit businesses.

Businesses have always benefited from advancements in technology but people fear being replaced by robots or automation. For people whose jobs are replaced by robots or automation, the Essential Workers Model can act as a safety net. When the Essential Workers Model uses technologies thereby decreasing its workers’ hours, the workers will still collect their same amount of basic needs. When automation decreases the amount of labor in one sector, every worker’s hours will decrease as well. Therefore, automation is welcome in the Essential Workers Model.

The Essential Workers Model can also devote more hours to repairing the environment, developing skills related to environmental care, and inventing innovative ways to recycle and reuse when big businesses do not take the responsibility or time to do it themselves.

§ Detail numbers on the Essential Workers Model:

The Essential Workers Model isn’t based in just one building or relegated to one neighborhood. Instead, the model is integrated into the whole county. Rather than starting from scratch, the Essential Workers Model will improve on the current social service programs already in place. Guilford County holds a Population of about 537,174 (2019) people. 25.8% are children under the age of 16 who can’t work and 11.9% are too elderly and cannot work without difficulty. This leaves about 351,151 people eligible to work in the Essential Workers model, Within this 60% (210,690) people self-identify as comfortably able to buy both their wants and needs from the for-profit economy; the remainder of about 140,360 people have a form of paid work but self identifies as always lacking two or more of their basic needs; have no steady work and struggle to secure all of their basic needs; 6.6% of people under 65 years old self identify as having a disability and may or may not be able to work in some capacity but still need access to all of their basic needs. At its Foreseeable capacity, the Essential Workers model can employ 140,360 people and provide basic needs to 200,000 citizens some being children of the employed, elderly family members, and the disabled who are unable to work.

The Essential Workers Model operates on a municipal and county level, mixing the current paid staff of the municipality and county with the Essential Workers. The collaboration between the current social service programs and other entities that accept federal funds and the Essential Workers Model is necessary because the Essential Workers only enroll in 6 to 12 month work contracts. Their work is only designed to supplement and improve the current services in place.

People can choose from all kinds of work, learn new skill sets, and switch between different kinds of work as it becomes available.

The bulk of the Essential Workers Model services to remove the limitation of what the city and county can pay people to do in the public sector. Social services that need tax revenue and federal money to operate tend to also contract out their labor to businesses that then hire workers for a limited time. For example, Greensboro contracts out its recycling services, the contactors own their trucks and machinery, and will turn a bountiful profit on our tax dollars to recycle our trash. The leadership could invest that same money into the city by owning and maintaining equipment, employing paid staff to recycle, and providing job security to paid staff almost guaranteeing a consistent and proficient workforce. Essential Workers can then maintain the machinery and equipment and aid paid staff in their work. The Essential Workers will have shorter shifts than paid staff but will be trained to be helpful and communicative with paid staff. 

The county can save money in the long run by investing in equipment and having the Essential Workers maintain it. Just as it’s more cost-effective to own a car than to rent one from a rental car business every day, it is more cost-effective for the county to have its own materials and equipment than to contract businesses that have them. A cohesive platform of services will attract more businesses to our city and create opportunities for local people to start businesses as well.

The pilot program should not be less than 10,000 people and would include people already accepting social services as well as people looking to supplement their income by earning their basic needs outside of the for-profit economy. All people enrolled will complete an evaluation of skill set and proficiency for the available work they desire to do. At its Foreseeable capacity the Essential Workers Model can employ 140,360 people and At the height of participation, the collective hours of work would be 102,182,080 (one hundred two million one hundred eighty two thousand and eighty) hours of work per year. The average workload in the Essential Workers Model for each citizen is 8- 14 hours a week or a few days of 4hour work shifts and that’s all that is required to have continuous access to basic needs. Every person chooses to work in the Essential Workers Model for their basic needs while freely participating in the for-profit economy for the things they want. Or they can choose not to participate in the Essential Workers Model and earn both their needs and their wants from the for-profit economy. People can earn all five of their basic needs working in the Essential Workers Model and if a person already has access to some of those basic needs their hours of work can be adjusted down.


Using Guilford county North Carolina as an example, their education system has a total of 10,394 Full-Time and Part-time paid personnel and an estimated contract labor force of about 3000 working roughly 19,814,640 hrs of work per year towards public education. At the height of participation, the Essential Workers model can contribute an extra 9,907,320 labor hours toward public education. The Essential Workers can work as administrators, assistant principals, guidance counselors, media coordinators, audiovisual- technicians, clerks, secretaries, service workers, and laborers. More support staff would increase each school’s capacity to enroll students and each student the potential for learning by having more adults available for their scholastic experiences.


Along with providing everyone enrolled in the Essential Workers model with a steady supply of locally grown essential food staples, at the height of participation the Essential Workers model will have a surplus of food, enough to produce 71,747 tons of fresh food a year for public school lunch and breakfast: 1 ton or 5.5 pounds per day per child for 122 public elementary, middle and high schools in Guilford County.

More access to fresh food will also foster demand for locally grown food. To help for-profit farmers stay competitive, the Essential workers will tend to the for-profit crops in exchange for the right to farm a different part of that land that would be reserved for the Essential Workers Model production. 


The bulk of the housing options for the Essential workers will come from the preexisting housing stock. There are roughly 1200 houses that are condemned or deemed unlivable by the housing authority standards. The Essential Workers model will be in collaboration with the exciting owners of these properties, first repairing the properties up to livable standards and codes, then exchange the owners will sign a lease agreement that with Essential Workers Model to allows the property to be sub-leased out to Essential workers for two to ten years. The amount of time leased is dependent on the amount of time, labor, and martial it takes to repair the house, and at no point will the lease agreement ever include the owner being paid any money but the benefit comes in the fact that at the end of the lease the property will be up to code enabling the owner to rent it on the free market, sell it or live in it themselves. For property owners who can’t afford to fix up their property leasing it to the Essential Workers Model is a great way to have work done at no cost. This collaboration Is an ideal solution for improving the overall health of housing stock in the county.

There are other safe and humane living conditions the Essential Workers model can provide. Such as Tiny houses which are 100 sq units that stand alone which might be good for single people, the formally homeless, and college students. also collective housing models. A collective housing model is where 3 to 6 non-family members live together so they can all have easy access to services they might all need in common such as nursing or psychiatric care. The collective housing model would make stable housing for children deemed wards of the states, people recovering from substance addiction, or individuals leaving prison on parole. People who want to keep their current housing situation in the free market they can choose to do so and still get their other basic needs out of the Essential Workers Model. The benefit of which is that workload might be less in the Essential Workers Model


Drinking water and wastewater management consist of highly technical jobs that need to continue as predominantly paid positions. Still, there are places for the Essential workers to participate. For example, the pipes throughout Greensboro are designed to stay in the ground for about 40 years at which time they need to be replaced. Currently, Greensboro is replacing old pipes at about 1.5% rate per year. Essential workers can speed up the process, replacing old pipes at a faster rate, preventing leaks, and creating a safer water system. In addition, many maps and plans of waterways and pipe systems would be easier to read and understand by technicians if they were digitized by Essential workers for future use. The Essential Workers model can add 5,109,104 hours of work towards a more efficient water system.


Guilford County’s infrastructure includes the trash collection service to over 245,246 residential and business locations; the fire department which currently has 678 positions; the police department with 894 sworn officers and 111 unsworn officers; bus drivers and park maintenance workers. Some of these jobs are contracted out when they could instead be filled by Essential model workers. At the height of participation, the Essential Workers Model can add 44,364,420 hours of work towards all of these public sectors. In addition, Essential workers can fill operational roles such as evaluation of skill set and proficiency for the available work as well as teaching other people new skill sets that can then be applied to the Essential Workers model. Essential workers can contribute to sectors that may never be profitable in the county’s free-market economy such as expanding services to make the elderly more comfortable, environmental research and repair, mental health services and support, re-envisioning the foster care system, and public art. The hours of maintenance and facilitation of the Essential Workers Model itself are all included as positions related to Infrastructure.     

§ Conclusion

People don’t have to be caste or qualified by situational circumstance or be approved to be enrolled in the Essential Workers Model. Anyone who self-identifies as “lacking their basic needs” has the opportunity to earn them in a consensual labor system, with a minimal time commitment and a minimal set of job requirements. This gives every person who self-identifies as “willing to do the work” a humane means of accessing basic human needs.

Societies are the natural groupings of people together in a physical geographic location. They are very similar to why bees have hives or why dolphins have pods. A society’s primary function is to increase the chances of survival of humans in the wilderness. The American Dream is a belief that no matter what your circumstance, everyone is capable of reaching the same standard of lifestyle solely of their own volition. In reality, this does not include everyone and always holds the threat of not including those who believe in The American Dream as well. The Essential Workers Model is based on the idea that survival begins with access to basic needs without compromising an individual’s dignity and freedom. Each individual can contribute in some form to producing basic needs for everyone. Participation in the Essential Workers Model is consensual and there are no consequences for not participating. Regardless of which ideology you hold your willingness to consent to the work is all that is needed. The Essential Workers Model is American diversity and democracy at its best; there is no need to punish or shame those who do not consent.