In recent years, the once-widespread practice of long-term career employment has been abandoned by most nonunion employers, replaced by what’s been described as a “much more open, just-in-time labor market” — one in which older workers are especially likely to be laid off. Pensions have been radically transformed, while the unionized share of the workforce has declined sharply, especially in the private sector, and the number of workers covered by multi-employer pension plans has fallen dramatically.
How can we make sense of this changing landscape for aging workers?
Murphy Professors Ruth Milkman and Ed Ott recently released a report called “Labor and Longevity: Unions and the Aging Workforce.” In it, they explore the relationship between aging workers and union organizing nationwide and in New York City, offering recommendations for how unions can defend and negotiate for benefits that meet the needs of all of their workers.
Read the full report here.
This month, the UCLA Labor Center and the Young Workers Project released a new report about young workers in the United States. Called “I am a #YOUNGWORKER,” the report is “a collective and participatory endeavor,” and involved the work of 60 students and young workers, including Murphy Institute student Mohammad Amin, who served as part of the Report Development Team.
A striking document, the report highlights the important —and precarious — role young workers play in local economies. It begins:
Young workers are an essential part of the workforce who contribute substantially to local economies. But in cities like Los Angeles, the soaring cost of living means that making ends meet can be especially difficult for young workers. They earn less than previous generations, face higher education costs, and are concentrated in service sector jobs. Many employers rely on youth to supply cheap and temporary labor, while adults often perceive these early jobs merely as rites of passage in a way that justifies their precarious conditions. Framing these jobs as transitional or solely for young people undermines these forms of labor as real work.
Seeking to “highlight the experience of young people who work and to challenge clichés about young workers,” the study “focuses on workers between the ages of 18 and 29 in retail and food service, the two largest employers of young people in Los Angeles County and an integral part of the region’s labor landscape” and uses “a research justice lens that aims to center the experience, and position, of young workers and student researchers as experts.”
Read the full report here.
What’s the relationship between unionization and the racial pay gap?
According to a new report by Murphy Institute Professors Ruth Milkman and Stephanie Luce, The State of the Unions: A Profile of Organized Labor in New York City, New York State, and the United States, unions narrow the racial divide in wage levels. The report states:
Blacks have higher unionization rates than any other racial/ethnic group. Those who are union members reap substantial economic advantages, such as improved earnings, more job security, and greater access to employer-provided health insurance and pensions.
An annual publication from the Murphy Institute, the report provides a wealth of information about unions in New York City, New York State and beyond, providing union density levels by geography, industry, race, gender, earnings, education, and other variables, and showing modest growth of unions at both the City and State level.
On Friday, the report was covered in a NY Times article called Unionization Important to Closing Racial Wage Gap, Study Says.
See the full report here.
On Wednesday, February 25th, the Northwest Queens Financial Education Network, including the Community Development Project, Chhaya CDC, New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE), and Queens Community House (QCH), held an event at the Murphy Institute to release a new report entitled Bridging the Gap: Overcoming Barriers to Immigrant Financial Empowerment in Northwest Queens. Check it out!
This week, the NYTimes ran a story by Rachel L. Swarns showing the stark differences in labor conditions for unionized vs non-unionized retail workers. In an article that will come as no surprise to those who have been following labor struggles among retail workers, Swarns writes about the relatively stable labor conditions for workers at Macy’s in New York City’s Harold Square, explaining:
…these union workers savor something that is all too rare in the retail industry right now: guaranteed minimum hours — for part-time and full-time employees — and predictable schedules.
Unfortunately, as an upcoming report by Murphy Professor Stephanie Luce and the Retail Action Project shows, these benefits are accruing to only a fraction of the retail industry as a whole. Swarns writes that the researchers, “surveyed 236 retail workers in Manhattan and Brooklyn and found that only 40 percent had set minimum hours per week.”
For more on the state of unions and retail workers, and a look at some of the changes the retail industry is undergoing, read the full story.
Photo via NYTimes