When Personalized Service Collides With Staffing Cuts

Urban Planning Professor Chris Tilly spoke to Forbes about staff cuts at Petco, whose business model relies on drawing customers into brick-and-mortar stores for services such as grooming, training and veterinary care. The staffing reductions come as Petco announced that it would be far less profitable this year than previously expected. “It’s ironic because Petco, like lots of other retailers, is saying our competitive advantage is we have stores where you can actually talk to somebody and they know your pet’s name,” said Tilly, co-author of  “Where Bad Jobs Are Better: Retail Jobs Across Countries and Companies.” “But it’s completely at odds with what they’re actually doing with their staff.”


Tilly Navigates California’s Shifting Labor Landscape

UCLA Luskin Urban Planning Professor Chris Tilly spoke to the California Sun podcast about the state’s shifting labor dynamics. High-profile strikes, concerns about inflation and the emerging role of technology in the workplace have raised the visibility of worker rights campaigns this year. “The cost of housing, of health care, of college tuition have risen on trajectories that are so out of sync with everything else, including pay,” Tilly said. One experimental approach to addressing these issues is a plan to raise the minimum wage for many fast-food workers in California to $20 an hour and create a nine-member council empowered to make future wage increases. “Having some space where labor interests and management interests and public interests can all sit down at the table and hammer out what might be a good way to go, I think that’s a good thing to do,” Tilly said. “If places like California don’t lead, the prospects for the country look a lot grimmer.”


Tilly on Labor Actions Spreading Across State and Nation

Urban Planning Professor Chris Tilly spoke to CNBC about labor actions across California — 55 in 95 locations that commenced just since the beginning of 2023. In Los Angeles, striking Hollywood writers and actors have joined city employees and hotel and hospitality workers on the picket line in what some are calling a summer of solidarity. Union representatives in the state say they are being contacted by organizers from around the country who are seeking guidance on stepping up their own labor actions. “I think California is ahead of the country, but it’s pointing to a crisis that’s likely to happen nationwide,” Tilly said.


Tilly Sees a Leadership Opportunity in California’s Population Decline

Chris Tilly, professor of urban planning at UCLA Luskin, commented in a New York Times feature weighing whether the Golden State has lost its luster as population growth has leveled off in recent years — declining from its high of almost 40 million residents — in the midst and aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. The article cites data from the state’s finance department that projects a possible population stagnation for decades to come. Tilly said America has always had a frontier mentality, but perhaps that should be reimagined.  “Maybe it’s time for us to grow up and realize we live in a world of limits,” he said. “That could be a level of maturity. If California is in a position to lead the country and come to terms with its limitations on growth, that could be a way California could still be in the lead. Which could really be an interesting twist.”


Tilly on Working Conditions in the Retail Sector

Urban Planning Professor Chris Tilly spoke to Boston Globe Magazine about working conditions in the retail sector, particularly at supercenters that attract consumers with discount prices made possible in part by keeping employee wages low. “In the 1960s into the early 1970s, working in retail really was a decent job,” said Tilly, co-author of “Where Bad Jobs Are Better: Retail Jobs Across Countries and Companies.” That changed due to a number of factors, including the increasing desirability of part-time positions. “Retailers figured out they could offer half the wages and none, or some, of the benefits,” Tilly said. Now, “the dominant model has been a low wage, high turnover, low benefits and increasingly crazy schedules.” Market forces, including pandemic-era labor shortages, have pushed retailers to improve working conditions, but those gains could be reversed if employers regain the advantage.


Tilly on Worrisome Economic Signals From California

A Barron’s article about concerns that California’s climbing jobless rate and other economic indicators may be harbingers of a national economic downturn quoted Chris Tilly, UCLA Luskin professor of urban planning and an expert on labor and workplace trends. Tilly said four broad employment sectors in the state are either shrinking or stagnant: construction, particularly residential construction; durable goods; wholesale; and information, which includes media and entertainment jobs. The state economy, the largest in the U.S., grew by an annual rate of 0.4% in 2022, so it’s difficult to call California a “bad economy,” Tilly said. Still, “California is not in a recession at this point, but it is a risk,” and the state “may be a leading indicator for what’s happening elsewhere.”


Tilly on the Struggle to Fill Jobs in the U.S.

Chris Tilly, professor and chair of Urban Planning, commented in a WalletHub article about U.S. states where employers are struggling most to hire workers in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In general, Tilly said, employers are having difficulty hiring and keeping workers because the unemployment rate has been so low in recent months — about 3.5% — that workers can be choosy and can demand higher wages. Employers “have been raising wages in response to their difficulty hiring, but they still have not come to terms with how much they will have to raise pay to fill open jobs,” Tilly said. He also noted that when unemployment levels were higher, employers could be more selective in the skills they wanted and could be pickier. “The reality is that workers are capable of learning, and businesses are going to have to do more training than they are accustomed to,” he said.


UCLA Urban Planning Rises to No. 1 Latest ranking of top graduate planning programs by Planetizen puts UCLA Luskin in the top spot

UCLA Luskin Urban Planning has been ranked No. 1 in North America, according to the latest survey of the nation’s top graduate programs in urban planning by Planetizen.

“Urban Planning’s rise to the top spot in the nation is a clear reflection of the excellence of the faculty and staff,” said Interim Dean Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, distinguished professor of urban planning. “I am particularly proud that this is also one of the most diverse Urban Planning departments in both its students and faculty, and that the program is driven by the call for social justice.”

Planetizen, a planning and development network based in Los Angeles, is the only entity that ranks urban planning programs. This is the first time that UCLA Luskin Urban Planning has led the rankings.

“I am very happy to see us at the top of this list,” said Michael Manville, incoming department chair and professor of urban planning. “There’s always an arbitrary element to rankings like this — all of the top planning programs are excellent — but I view our No. 1 ranking as a clear sign of how high the quality in our program is, and that’s a testament to the great people we have here.”

The 2023 ranking for UCLA includes the top position in four categories — West Coast universities, largest programs, top big city programs and all public universities. UCLA Luskin Urban Planning is listed among the Top 10 in these other categories: ranking by educators (3), student body diversity (6), most alumni (2) and most selective (7).

The guidebook also lists 28 specialties in which at least three courses are offered in a subject area. These 18 specialties include UCLA: climate action, community development, economic development, environmental/natural resources/energy, equity/inclusion/social justice, food systems planning, housing, healthy cities/communities, infrastructure planning, land use/physical planning, land use/planning law, international/global development, real estate development, regional planning, rural/small town planning, sustainability planning, technology/GIS and transportation planning.

More information about the rankings and methodology is available online.

Other top planning programs are MIT (2), Rutgers (3), UC Berkeley (4), the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (5), University of Georgia (6), Harvard (7) and USC (8). The Planetizen guidebook, which comes out every five years, ranked UCLA at No. 4 in 2014 and 2019.

Tilly on Grocery Store Employees’ Rights

Chris Tilly, professor and chair of Urban Planning, spoke to Fast Company and Public News Service about the rights of grocery store employees in both the United States and Europe. In the Fast Company article, Tilly compared American cashiers to their counterparts in Europe, where cashiers are allowed to be seated while working. A blend of standing and sitting would be a recommended health benefit for employees, Tilly said, but “no country seems to have adopted that as a standard.” In the Public News Service article, Tilly commented on the merger of Albertsons and Kroger, grocery store chains that promised to honor union agreements. Tilly noted that there are no guarantees. “Workers are rightly skeptical of that, particularly because when Albertsons and Safeway merged, they spun off 168 stores and quite soon a lot of those stores closed,” he said.

Tilly on Costco’s Labor Policy

Urban Planning chair Chris Tilly appeared on Yahoo Finance Live to discuss Costco’s labor policy and the impact of the Teamsters Union reaching a contract with the big-box retailer. Tilly was asked about the increasing pressure on Costco as some competitors raise employee benefits — and prices — to try to be more competitive. “I think that there’s two sources of pressure. One is, in fact, that competitor pressure,” Tilly said. “Nonetheless, there’s also a source of pressure because as inflation goes up, workers’ expenses go up. And Costco has to keep pace with that.” As an example, Tilly explained that, during negotiations, Costco offered a settlement that workers turned down in August, threatening to go on strike. “And so I think that’s the other source of pressure. And that’s going to continue, both because inflation is continuing and because right now the worker shortage is continuing.”