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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Urban Planning Chair Chris Tilly joined KPCC’s “AirTalk” in an episode about decreasing unemployment levels in California. The number of people seeking jobless benefits has fallen steadily all year, but the economy is still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. As restaurants and businesses plan to open back up to maximum capacity on June 15, many employers are struggling to get enough employees to return to work. “The labor market and the economy have been in a deep freeze” over the past year and a half, said Tilly, who predicted that there will be some points of friction as the economy reopens. “Many workers are not rushing to go back to work, either because they are still burdened with child or other dependent care, they have their own health concerns, or wages are not sufficient,” he said. But he added that markets have ways of balancing themselves out. “When wages increase, workers are going to materialize.”
A UCLA-led study of informal laborers in six countries found that, despite differences in local laws and cultures, domestic workers and construction workers are often exploited by their employers because government labor protections are weak or not enforced. However, the study also found that the laborers share common organizing strategies that can improve their work conditions and their lives. Urban Planning Chair Chris Tilly co-authored the report, which looked at informal employment in China, India, Mexico, South Africa, South Korea and the United States. The report focused on workers from two sectors with distinct gender differences: construction and domestic work. These informal workers, who are most often migrants, typically do not have access to protection by standard employment laws and social security-like programs. “This research confirms that informal workers can successfully organize and win rights,” Tilly said. “It offers lessons on strategy for workers in these two sectors and beyond, and it helps us understand how and why organizing approaches differ across sectors and countries.” Tilly pointed to the United States as an example of a country where domestic workers continue to be excluded from core labor standards such as meal breaks, overtime pay and an eight-hour workday. By contrast, construction workers were covered by labor laws in every country in the study, yet they were often victims of exploitation — unless they mobilized to demand protections. The report is a collaboration between the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment and the Center for Global Workers’ Rights at Penn State. — Citlalli Chávez-Nava
Urban Planning Chair Chris Tilly spoke to Spectrum News about the inequity of the wealth work industry, which has grown exponentially during the pandemic. Many individuals who lost their jobs during the pandemic turned to gig work, which often revolves around making the lives of the upper classes more comfortable. Most gig workers are independent contractors and do not have health care or retirement plans. According to Tilly, this model is unsustainable and is accelerating the inequality gap. “There is something wrong about that business model,” he said. “We don’t want businesses that only make money because they’re not paying people enough to live on.” Tilly explained that a floor must be set on the wealth work industry through advocacy, unions or regulation. “If these jobs are going to be with us, great, but let’s make them sustainable, living-wage jobs,” he said.
The U.S. retail industry has been rocked by COVID-19, but the momentary spotlight on essential workers shows little sign of bringing lasting improvements to their work lives, according to an article co-written by Urban Planning Chair Chris Tilly. Only regulatory pressure promises to strengthen protections for retail workers, Tilly and co-author Françoise Carré concluded in the piece for the Good Companies, Good Jobs Initiative. The COVID-19 shutdown, along with rapid technological change, has triggered high levels of unemployment and undermined employer interest in basic job improvement measures, they wrote. On the tech front, “the e-commerce boom is most obvious, but a less visible — and quite ominous — shift is the spread of worker surveillance,” which has led to complaints that faulty systems have been used to discipline employees unfairly. Tilly and Carré are co-authors of the 2017 book “Where Bad Jobs Are Better” and collaborated on a chapter in 2020’s “Creating Good Jobs: An Industry-Based Strategy.”