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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.


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