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Yaroslavsky on Labor-Tech Faceoff as a Campaign Barometer

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the Associated Press about a faceoff between Big Labor and Big Tech that has become an issue in the Democratic presidential primary. Several major Democratic White House hopefuls have expressed support for a California bill backed by labor and opposed by tech giants such as Uber and Lyft, the article said. The bill would make it harder for tech companies to classify workers as independent contractors, who are not entitled to minimum wage or workers’ compensation. “It says something about where the candidates think the primary voters are on this issue,” Yaroslavsky said. They “may believe that labor can be more helpful to them than the high-tech companies can be to them in a caucus state or a primary.”


 

Tilly’s ‘Where Bad Jobs Are Better’ Earns Book Prize

Professor Chris Tilly with his prize-winning book at the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting.

“Where Bad Jobs Are Better: Retail Jobs Across Countries and Companies,” written by Urban Planning Professor Chris Tilly and Françoise Carré, received the 2019 Distinguished Scholarly Monograph Award from the American Sociological Association’s labor and labor movements section. The book, which identifies room for improvement in the U.S. retail sector, was cited for its rigorous research, concise writing and deep relevance to students, scholars and activists. By comparing working conditions in seven countries, the authors conclude that low wages, unpredictable work schedules and limited opportunities for advancement are not an inevitable characteristic of the retail sector. “Where Bad Jobs Are Better” previously won the 2018 William G. Bowen Award from Princeton University for its contribution toward understanding public policy related to industrial relations and the operation of labor markets. It was named a finalist for the 2018 George R. Terry Book Award from the Academy of Management.

Tilly on Apps That Disrupt the Payday Cycle

Urban Planning Professor Chris Tilly spoke to Bloomberg Law about new apps that allow workers to tap into their paychecks ahead of the traditional two-week cycle. At least five tech startups have entered the market, which is primarily aimed at workers who live paycheck to paycheck. By accessing their earnings earlier, people will gain more flexibility in paying bills and avoiding high-interest credit card charges, the services say. However, some observers say that speeding up pay cycles could mask a larger problem: stagnant wages. “The smoothing of pay availability over a pay period is advantageous to people who have very little savings,” said Tilly, a labor economist. “What it doesn’t address is why those people have very little savings in the first place. Low pay is low pay, and this is being intensified by increasing housing, health care and other costs in many places.”


 

Park on Rising Temperatures and Sinking Productivity

Jisung Park, assistant professor of public policy and environmental health sciences, spoke with Marketplace about the impact of climate change on economic productivity. The International Labor Organization predicts that heat stress linked to global warming could drain more than $2 trillion from the world’s gross domestic product. In hot weather, people work more slowly, need more breaks and make errors, studies have found. “If you work outdoors, it’s much harder to protect yourself from either the productivity or the health impacts from extreme heat,” said Park, who has conducted research showing that student test scores decline in hot weather. The effect of rising global temperatures on cognitive development is particularly acute in low-income areas where air conditioning is not available, Park has found.


 

Yaroslavsky on Feud Between Mayor and Union

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the L.A. Times about the political feud between Mayor Eric Garcetti and the union that represents workers at the Department of Water and Power. The union has run a series of television and radio commercials attacking Garcetti’s plan to address climate change, saying it would eliminate thousands of jobs amid a serious housing crisis. Much of the opposition is driven by Garcetti’s plan to close three DWP natural gas plants but that is not mentioned in the ad, the story notes. “Unless you’re on the inside, you don’t really know what this is all about,” Yaroslavsky said. “You don’t know that it’s about shutting down fossil-fuel-powered plants in the basin.” Noting that the ads may be aimed at City Council members, Yaroslavsky said the union’s message may be: “This is what we’re doing to the mayor. Imagine what we can do to you.”

 

Tilly on Selective Use of Wage Statistics

Urban Planning Professor Chris Tilly spoke to FactCheck.org about presidential candidates’ selective use of statistics to describe U.S. wages as rising, sinking or flat. Different variables — including how to adjust for inflation and which base year to choose for comparison — can lead to different conclusions. President Trump has said that “wages are rising at the fastest rate in a decade,” while Sen. Bernie Sanders has said that “the average American today has not seen a nickel more in real wages than he or she got 45 years ago.” Tilly weighed in on Sen. Cory Booker’s claim that wages are at a 60-year low, a possible reference to wages as a percentage of gross domestic income — a measure of workers’ share of the economic pie. This is a different but legitimate way of looking at wages and salaries, Tilly said, noting that it reveals what workers are getting “relative to other kinds of income recipients in the economy.”


 

Tilly on California Bill’s Impact on the Gig Economy

Urban Planning Professor Chris Tilly spoke with The Information about legislation in California that would classify gig workers as employees rather than contractors. The article focuses on Jyve, a San Francisco-based staffing agency that pays by the job instead of the hour for temporary work such as restocking shelves and setting up displays inside grocery stores. While the bill in California is directed at ride-hailing companies, gig-based businesses such as Jyve could be affected. “If California does move forward with this, there is a decent chance at least some other states will follow suit,” said Tilly, who studies labor markets, inequality and urban development. That could be a threat to Jyve’s business model, which is “coming of age in a different regulatory environment at least in California and potentially in other states in years to come.”

Tilly Highlights World of Contracting in Silicon Valley

Chris Tilly, a professor of urban planning at UCLA, was featured in a KQED report about the role of contractors in Silicon Valley, described by one tech worker as a “two-tiered caste system.” Contract workers have grown in prominence due to the ease of hiring and firing, as well as being cheaper than full-time employees. According to Tilly, “the advantages of the contractor model are even more valuable in the investor-dependent, quick-pivot world of Silicon Valley because it allows firms to quickly scale up and scale down projects with labor.” Despite doing the same work, contractors earn less and don’t share the same perks of benefits and stability as traditional full-time employees. Due to their precarious positions, many contract workers fear losing their jobs by speaking out. While workers in older industries are protected by unions, Tilly explained that “[Silicon Valley] companies start out with a blank slate,” making it difficult for contract workers to organize.

Jacoby Comments on Employee Profit-Sharing in Sears’ Heyday

Sanford Jacoby, distinguished professor emeritus of public policy at UCLA Luskin, commented in a front-page New York Times article about the remarkably egalitarian employee profit-sharing program offered by Sears in its heyday. Before it was phased out in the 1970s, the stock-ownership plan allowed Sears workers at all ranks to build a comfortable nest egg. “People were retiring with nice chunks of change,” Jacoby said. “People loved this fund, and Sears was a wildly successful company.” But the approach favored men over women and also made workers even more exposed to their employer’s fate, said Jacoby, who also holds professorial appointments in history and management at UCLA. The article contrasted the program at Sears, which has declared bankruptcy, with policies at Amazon, which recently lifted its minimum hourly wage to $15 but also stopped giving stock to hundreds of thousands of employees. The decision underscores how lower-paid employees across corporate America have been locked out of profit-sharing and stock grants, the article said.


Tilly Sees Benefits of Perks for Theme Park Employees

Chris Tilly, professor of urban planning, is quoted in a Los Angeles Times story about the benefits of perks that include free passes and access to special events and attractions for employees working at Southern California theme parks. “It does enable you to hold on to good employees, but it also helps motivate people,” said Tilly, who studies labor markets and public policies directed toward better jobs. “You want them to be part of the team, and they are jazzed to be working there.”