Tilly Analyzes Restructuring of Best Buy

Urban Planning Chair Chris Tilly spoke to Retail Dive about the internal reorganization of Best Buy following a recent large wave of layoffs. The company has been struggling to compete against generalist stores, such as Walmart and Target, as well as Amazon. Over the last decade, Best Buy said it prized a “human-centric approach” focusing on the company’s front-line workers, but it recently cut many full-time employees in favor of part-time staff who are expected to be knowledgeable about all areas of the store. “It’s clear that the entire store-based consumer electronics industry has faced incredible pressure from online sales,” Tilly said. “The fact that Best Buy survived and bounced back is miraculous, when a lot of other companies were going down.” The pandemic made competition even tougher by shifting more things online. “If you’re just competing with online sales, what is the difference between Best Buy and Amazon?” Tilly asked.


Tilly Examines Impact of Inflation

Urban Planning Chair Chris Tilly was featured in a Sacramento Bee article discussing the impact of inflation on the 2022 midterm elections. Prices have increased 5.4% in the last year, one of the steepest rises since 2008, and California now has the highest per-gallon gas price in the country. According to Tilly, higher prices at the pump hurt agriculture-heavy regions like the San Joaquin Valley more than any other areas of the state. “A lot of the agricultural valley workforces are relatively low-income, which means that they’re ill-equipped to deal with higher prices,” Tilly explained. Businesses struggling to handle the costs of inflation are more likely to raise the costs of their goods and less likely to increase the wages of their workers. “If I’m an agricultural worker, and possibly even an agricultural worker who’s dealing with supply chain problems in their own industry, then I’ve got a problem,” he said.


Tilly on Newfound American Labor Power

Urban Planning Professor Chris Tilly joined NewsNation Now to discuss the labor strikes going on across the country. “We’ve seen growing inequality in this country since the 1970s, so it makes sense for workers to point that out at a time when they have some leverage to do so,” Tilly said. The gap between the CEO and the worker has consistently grown in recent decades. Tilly explained that the power of unions depends on labor shortages and the supply chain, and workers now have more power than they have had in years. “That power is real, but we don’t know how long it will last,” he said. “If workers get [paid] more, that will contribute to inflation, but if what that means is that workers are getting a bigger piece of the pie, I would agree that that’s a good thing,” Tilly concluded.


Tilly Explains Labor Shortage Patterns

Urban Planning Chair Chris Tilly was featured in a Vox article discussing labor shortages as many low-wage workers demand better working conditions. Nearly 16 million Americans quit their jobs between April and July, highlighting the mental and physical fatigue experienced by many, as well as the desire to improve work environments. “For a lot of people, it’s been traumatizing,” Tilly said. Essential workers in California experienced a 30% increase in deaths in the first 10 months of the pandemic, according to an analysis of public data. Many low-wage jobs lack benefits such as health insurance and sick leave, and the work itself can be physically and emotionally taxing. “People settled for that, but they weren’t necessarily thrilled with those jobs,” Tilly explained. He also pointed out that any increases in hourly wages are often countered by inflation. “The labor shortage giveth, and the end of the labor shortage taketh away,” Tilly said.


Tilly on Boost in Workers’ Bargaining Power

Urban Planning Chair Chris Tilly was featured in an Associated Press article about the growing strength of union workers. A nationwide worker shortage spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic has given union workers an opportunity to demand higher wages and better working conditions. “Low-end jobs more typically have a labor surplus,” Tilly said. “But there are also shortages at higher skill levels, including jobs where there are chronic shortages like nurses, machinists and teachers.” Tilly predicted that, as the job market starts to slow in coming months, union workers may lose some of their newly claimed bargaining power. “As long as the economy is growing — and growing at a relatively vigorous pace — that’s going to continue helping workers, and for that matter, dealing unions a better hand, too,” he explained. “But we are not necessarily in a new era that’s going to look exactly like it has for the last few months.”


Tilly on the Intrusiveness of AI Technology

Urban Planning Chair Chris Tilly was featured in a Fox32 news segment about the growing use of artificial intelligence technology in the food industry. Many stores such as McDonald’s and Amazon Go are testing drive-thru and AI invisible checkout systems. Tilly explained that these new technologies have an impact on both consumers and the workforce. “To some extent, workers are being replaced by this technology,” he said. “At the same time, the expansion of services like curbside pickup means that workers are being added.” While the workforce may be balanced out by the expansion of these new technologies, Tilly noted that the services can be very intrusive for consumers. “Artificial intelligence is always on, always tracking what people are doing,” he said. While the Amazon Go model has currently only been implemented in small stores with many sensors and cameras, Tilly predicted that technology will most likely allow companies to expand these services in the long run.


Tilly on Improving Working Conditions Amid Labor Crunch

Urban Planning Chair Chris Tilly spoke to Grocery Dive and Business Insider about the growing labor shortage, which comes as many retail employees are demanding improved working conditions. “Consumer demand is expanding faster than people are able and willing to go back into the labor force,” Tilly explained. “I don’t think we’re at a point where workers have permanently gained the upper hand, but I would be cautious about saying exactly when the power is going to shift back more to employers.” In the grocery sector, Tilly recommended that employers market their positions as opportunities for growth and advancement, in addition to offering higher wages. “Back when retail was a relatively desirable job, part of what made it that way was you actually could have a retail career, and it was not just a very small number of people who became supervisors and managers and took that path to the top,” he said.


Tilly Unpacks Frustrations of Retail Workers

Urban Planning Professor Chris Tilly was featured in a Business Insider article about frustrated retail employees who are leveraging the demand for labor and fighting for increased pay, benefits, paid sick leave and childcare. Tilly explained that “consumer demand appears to be outpacing retailers’ ability to staff stores,” which gives more leverage to workers. “I don’t think we’re at a point where workers have permanently gained the upper hand, but I would be cautious about saying exactly when the power is going to shift back more to employers,” he said. According to Tilly, the central problem is that “retailers are having trouble attracting workers at the rates of pay that they’re offering.” For years, retail workers have expressed their frustrations about low wages, stress and lack of respect in the workplace. “It’s not surprising that these kinds of jobs are not appealing to workers who have some level of choice in the matter,” Tilly said.


Tilly Comments on Rise of Instacart Services

Urban Planning Chair Chris Tilly was featured in a New York Times article about the increasing popularity of online grocery shopping services like Instacart. In 2020, online grocery sales rose 54%. The technology needed to fulfill orders is costly for stores, and the workers who pick customers’ items off the shelves often feel the pressure of being timed and tracked to monitor their efficiency. “The guinea pig for this is warehouse workers,” said Tilly, explaining that many of the technologies for online grocery shopping and picking are adapted from warehouses. He predicted that facilities designed specifically for online orders will eventually be expanded as the current system is creating an additional financial strain for grocers. “There is a constant search for how to make this cheaper, more efficient and, in many cases, as a transition to something longer term,” Tilly concluded.


Ong and Shoup Recognized for Exemplary Service to UCLA Awards highlight Paul Ong’s pandemic-related research and Donald Shoup’s international reputation in planning and parking policy

By Stan Paul

Paul Ong and Donald Shoup, research professors at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, have been honored for their decades of outstanding research and teaching and for their exemplary service to UCLA since retirement.

Ong is the recipient of the 2020-21 Carole E. Goldberg Emeriti Service Award, and Shoup is the winner of this year’s Edward A. Dickson Emeritus Professorship Award.

“Congratulations to Paul Ong and Don Shoup who are both deserving of this honor,” said UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura. “These two leaders and thinkers contribute mightily to making communities and neighborhoods healthier, more functional and more equitable. They fully represent the spirit of the School, and we take tremendous pride in their achievements.”

About Ong’s award

Ong retired in 2017 but has continued his research while serving as director of the UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge. The award, established in 2015, recognizes emeriti for exemplary service to the university and their department and includes a prize of $1,000. Ong was cited for his more than three decades of interdisciplinary social science teaching, policy-focused applied research and engagement with the community, as well as his interactions with policymakers to enable significant change.

The nomination for the award was supported by numerous recommendations from UCLA colleagues, including Professor Chris Tilly, chair of UCLA Luskin Urban Planning, who noted Ong’s continuing dedication to post-retirement service.

“What makes his service truly extraordinary, and extraordinarily timely, is the Herculean effort he has undertaken over the last two years to generate an astounding volume of actionable research addressing the two crises that have convulsed this country in 2020 and 2021: the COVID-19 crisis and the longstanding crisis of racial injustice that flared into mass activism in 2020,” Tilly wrote in his letter of recommendation.

Tilly said that the resulting stream of policy-focused applied research provided a “tremendous service to Los Angeles and other California communities, and by extension to other communities across the nation wrestling with these issues.”

He noted that Ong’s work and collaborations have helped position the university as a major contributor to understanding while “facing the greatest challenges of this very challenging time.”

Announcing the award was the chair of the awards committee, UCLA Vice Chancellor for Academic Personnel Michael S. Levine. He said of Ong: “He is an extraordinary builder of intellectual relationships, transforming empirical research into critical policy discussions in local, state and national venues.”

“In retirement, this advocacy continued and Professor Ong’s commitment to research-as-service came to a fulcrum during the span of the pandemic with actionable policy research addressing the twin crises of the coronavirus and racial injustice,” Levine said.

He noted that city officials in Los Angeles and medical professionals at UCLA Health drew on Ong’s research when creating COVID-19 vaccine equity guidelines.

Tilly called attention to 28 policy-relevant reports spotlighting the disparate impacts of COVID-19 on various racial and ethnic groups published by Ong since the pandemic began in 2020, mostly issued under the auspices of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge in collaboration with other UCLA units.

Ong’s research collaborators have included the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, the Asian American Studies Center, the School of Education and Information Studies, the Ziman Center for Real Estate, the BRITE Center and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, among others.

“Throughout his career, Dr. Ong has been an engaged scholar par excellence, and this latest chapter has taken that engagement to a new level,” Tilly said.

Ong was one of two awardees for 2020-21. Also honored was Josephine B. Isabel-Jones, professor emerita of pediatrics. They join UCLA’s list of outstanding past awardees.

About Shoup’s award

Shoup, who retired in 2015, was chosen among a select group of UCLA scholars that include Distinguished Researcher Professor Emeritus Benjamin Bonavida of the department of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics and Professor Emeritus Warwick Peacock of the department of Neurosurgery. Each will receive a $5,000 prize from a gift endowment established by the late Edward A. Dickson, a regent of the University of California.

Levine noted that since retirement Shoup has received numerous awards and accolades, including being named a National Planning Pioneer by the American Planning Association (APA). In 2017, he received the American Collegiate Schools of Planning’s Distinguished Educator Award, and in 2019 his landmark publication, “The High Cost of Free Parking,” was listed by the APA as a key timeline event since 1900 in the field of urban planning. The 2005 book has since been translated into other languages that include Russian, Chinese, Persian and Romanian.

Shoup followed up in 2018 with the publication of “Parking and the City,” which examined case studies of parking policies recommended in 2005 and outcomes in cities across the world that adopted those policies.

“Shoup is considered the world’s leading academic expert on policies, planning, travel impacts, environmental and social dimensions of parking,” Levine noted, pointing out that his analyses have led to policy changes adopted in various cities and have been emulated throughout Europe and Asia.

Shoup also was nominated and supported by colleagues including the late Marty Wachs, who passed away earlier this year.

“Professor Shoup has lived up to one of the early mottos of the Department of Urban Planning: ‘Linking Knowledge to Action,’” Wachs wrote in his nomination letter. He added, “In addition to scholarly writings addressing parking policy, Donald Shoup for decades advocated for public policies that reflected what he had learned from his research on parking.”

Wachs cited Shoup’s continued scholarship, teaching, mentoring, publishing and advocating on parking and other planning issues of public importance.

“Donald Shoup’s scholarship and advocacy related to parking are examples of what can be achieved when a strong background in the field of economics, meticulous empirical research and decades of attention to detail are combined and brought to the field of public policy and urban planning,” Wachs wrote.

Also supporting Shoup’s nomination was colleague Brian Taylor, professor of urban planning and public policy and the director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA.

“In addition to his ongoing research, Professor Shoup remains a committed teacher and UCLA ambassador to the present day,” Taylor said. “In sum, UCLA Distinguished Professor Emeritus Donald Shoup continues to be a renowned and prominent scholar of land use planning, transportation policy, land development and local public finance; a talented and popular teacher; and an exceptionally influential contributor to public policy and planning practice.”