Tilly Outlines Pathways for Retail Sector Improvement

Urban Planning Professor Chris Tilly co-authored a chapter in the newly published book Creating Good Jobs: An Industry-Based Strategy” from MIT Press. The book discusses industry experts’ research and recommendations for improving job quality across seven industries that employ many Americans in low-wage jobs: retail, residential construction, restaurants, manufacturing, long-haul trucking, hospitals and long-term healthcare. After working together to write “Where Bad Jobs Are Better: Retail Jobs Across Countries and Companies” in 2017, Tilly and Françoise Carré, research director at the Center for Social Policy at the University of Massachusetts, co-wrote a chapter in “Creating Good Jobs” about prospects for improving frontline retail jobs in the United States. In this chapter, Tilly strives to disprove the common misconception that “e-commerce is killing off store-based retail in a ‘retail apocalypse’ and that creating better retail jobs is a profitable win-win for retailers.” He explains that both ideas are wrong, despite their prevalence in the media. Tilly argues that “policy action is needed to change the terms of decision-making away from low-wage, labor-intensive organization of work in retail.” He writes that “the primary purpose of policy action and its intended industry-wide impact is to level the playing field for companies that provide better jobs.” For Tilly, this book demonstrates across a wide range of low-wage industries that “while improving job quality can be better for some businesses sometimes, the current policy environment keeps the win-win space small, and there is no way to convince most low-wage employers that they can ‘do well by doing good.’” — Zoe Day


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