Reports completed by researchers at the Project for Middle Class Renewal can be found here, arranged by date of release. For reports by subject, check out our “Research Topics” section.
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed a range of structural economic and public health inequities. On the one hand, the lowest-paid workers– higher shares of whom are women and people of color– are generally at the highest risk of becoming infected, unemployed, and uninsured. On the other hand, many middle- class workers have kept the economy functioning. By bringing new recognition to the value of and challenges faced by both essential and face-to-face workers, the state’s response to COVID-19 may also offer a policy roadmap that can enable Illinois to create a post-pandemic future that protects workers’ rights and rebuilds the middle class.
The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has brought the economy to a grinding halt. Businesses have temporarily closed and unemployment has substantially increased. While unprecedented actions have already been taken by the federal government and the State of Illinois, additional changes may be needed to stabilize the economy. This report considers the economic impacts of Illinois joining 28 other U.S. states and fully implementing its work-share program, called the Short-Time Compensation Program.
In 2011, the State of Illinois increases the training hours of a real estate license. This rule applies to both new applicants and existing real estate agents. We find that the law causes a 17% decrease in real estate employment, mainly driven by a one-time exit of existing badly-behaved agents. However, the change in the profile of workers – lower quality workers leaving the sector – does not bring about a significant reduction in the number of disciplinary cases. To guard consumer welfare, this report suggests that imposing minimum entry standard only does a part of the job. Complementary policies are needed to ensure the final experience of home buyers/sellers. Some alternatives include continuous training on the code of ethics and customer complaint system.
The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has brought the issue of paid sick leave to the forefront of state and national policymaking. Many sick workers are forced to choose between staying home to recover and going to work to earn a paycheck. While temporary paid sick leave in the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in March 2020 will help, this report considers the implications if Illinois were to enact a permanent paid sick leave law to preempt future epidemics. A total of 12 U.S. states already have these laws in place.
Immigration policy was one of the most contentious political issues in the last presidential election. It is important to have a clear picture of the labor market profiles for U.S.-born and immigrant workers in Illinois. Historically, Illinois has been one of the gateway states for immigrants. Despite the widespread perception that immigrants take jobs away from U.S. workers and suppress native workers’ wages, the analyses of data from the annual American Community Survey between 2008-2017 shows that the non-naturalized immigrant share in the Illinois labor force has declined and that non-naturalized immigrants earn less than both U.S.-born and naturalized workers in most occupations. Conversely, select U.S.-born workers and naturalized workers benefit from immigrant inflows in their occupations, which have no impact on the wages of White U.S.-born Illinois workers.
Joint labor-management apprenticeship programs account for the vast majority of registered apprentices in Illinois’ construction industry. These programs are significantly more rigorous than employer-only construction programs and require more hours of on-the-job and classroom training than a typical bachelor’s. However, despite requiring more hours of training to graduate, joint construction programs have a completion rate that rivals four-year universities and is 22 percentage points higher, on average, than employer-only programs. This report compares enrollment statistics, graduation rates, and the earnings potential of apprentices in joint labor-management apprenticeship programs in construction to those in employer-only construction programs as well as to those in all other non-construction training programs. These outcomes in registered apprenticeship programs are also contrasted with colleges and universities in Illinois to apprenticeship as an alternative post-secondary option for high school graduates in the state.
This study evaluates 543 collective bargaining agreements across Illinois – nearly two-thirds of all school district CBAs – to provide an understanding of Illinois’ large public education system and the students that attend Illinois’ public PreK-12 school districts. The study explores what district-level factors impact student academic performance.
More than two million children attend over 3,800 public schools in 852 local school districts across Illinois. Nearly all of these districts have collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) that determine the terms and conditions of employment. This study evaluates 543 collective bargaining agreements across Illinois, representing nearly two-thirds of all school district CBAs. While labor agreements establish enforceable terms upon the employees and the school districts, the analysis provides an understanding of how the contents of teacher labor contracts contribute to innovation and collaboration within Illinois’ large public education system.
The Project for Middle Class Renewal investigated ways to flatten the growth property of taxes in Illinois. The report discusses the present situation in Illinois, the regressive nature of property taxes as a form of public revenue, and the importance of property taxes for k-12 public education. Local schools are responsible for about two-thirds of all property tax assessments, so any effort to reduce property taxes likely relies on increasing the state’s proportion of the revenue spent on public education. Any other approach would have little effect and may produce negative unintended consequences for school quality. By rebalancing the state’s share of the investment in public education, Illinois lawmakers could reduce Illinois’ over reliance on property taxes and promote both taxpayer fairness and funding equity across school districts.
OCCUPATIONAL LICENSING AND LABOR MARKET IMPACTS IN ILLINOIS AND THE MIDWEST: IS THERE A RIGIDITY EFFECT?
Occupational licensing is a governmental credential for a worker to practice legally in a profession, affecting 25% of the U.S. workforce. This report quantifies the rigidity effect of licensing using the employment fluctuation data in Illinois from 2005 to 2018. The impact of licensing also reduces job loss by one-third during a contracting economy. In addition, the rigidity effect of licensing on the labor market manifests itself as a moderating factor against the 2008 recession and affected about 36% of Illinois workers. This report suggests that the recent wave of licensing reforms throughout the country and to some extent in Illinois should be focus on removing unnecessary job entry requirements, which can then increase labor market flexibility and facilitate worker relocation.
PREVAILING WAGE AND THE AMERICAN DREAM: IMPACTS ON HOMEOWNERSHIP, HOUSING WEALTH, AND PROPERTY TAX REVENUES
Prevailing wage laws establish a local wage floor for different types of skilled construction work on public construction projects. This study examines links between prevailing wage laws and homeownership, housing wealth, and property tax revenues for these workers and their communities. By stabilizing the wage floor and supporting apprenticeship programs, state prevailing wage laws promote ladders into the middle class for blue-collar workers. This report looks into data from the American Community Survey and uses statistical analysis to analyze the impact of state prevailing wage laws on the incomes, home ownership rates, and home values of blue-collar construction workers. These laws have been linked to higher incomes and stronger career training institutions for blue-collar construction workers. Ultimately, this study shows how prevailing wage allows hardworking craft workers who build the nation’s infrastructure to achieve the American Dream.
IS ILLINOIS READY FOR PAID PARENTAL LEAVE? POTENTIAL BENEFITS FOR INDIVIDUALS, FAMILIES, EMPLOYERS, AND THE STATE
Studies on paid parental leave (PPL) in Europe and, more recently, in the United States, suggest that PPL offer many benefits for children and families and even to employers. In this report we suggest that offering PPL to Illinoisans may also benefit the state of Illinois by situating it as the most family-friendly state in the Midwest. We review past research on the benefits of PPL to different stakeholders and suggest that offering PPL to Illinoisans might invigorate Illinois’ population growth by both decreasing the migration of young families out of Illinois and increasing the migration of such families to Illinois.
In 2014, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) adopted a system-wide Student Based Budgeting model for determining individual school budgets. Our report examines the impact of Student Based Budgeting. Our findings show that CPS’ putatively color-blind Student Based Budgeting reproduces racial inequality by concentrating low budget public schools almost exclusively in Chicago’s Black neighborhoods. The clustering of low budget schools in low-income Black neighborhoods adds another layer of hardship in neighborhoods experiencing distress from depopulation, low incomes, and unaffordable housing.
WORKERS’ RIGHTS IN WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT: SUCCESSES AND STRUGGLES OF CHICAGOLAND WORKFORCE PRACTITIONERS PERSUING HIGHER JOB QUALITY
Results from a study conducted by the Labor Education Program of the School of Labor and Employment Relations at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Great Lakes Center for Occupational Health and Safety of the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the Chicago Jobs Council show concrete ways Chicago area workforce development agencies are changing this paradigm. Through connecting workers’ rights education to job readiness programming, educating staff and community partners about labor laws and resources, and by using good jobs tools and metrics to rate potential employer partners, Chicago workforce development professionals are on the frontline of educating and protecting the region’s most at-risk workers.
Construction is the 3rd fastest growing industry in Minnesota. Over the next decade, construction employment is projected to expand by 9 percent in Minnesota, and 7-in-10 contractors already report difficulties in filling skilled craft positions. For many young Minnesota workers, enrolling in a registered apprenticeship program is a better option than attending college. Construction apprenticeship programs have positive impacts on Minnesota. The programs support workers by improving their skills and growing incomes. The programs also help employers address skills shortages by supplying safe, productive workers. Funded almost entirely by a cents per hour contribution from employers and administered jointly with unions, apprenticeship programs in construction also provide value to taxpayers by ensuring high-quality infrastructure and a strong economy.
Chicago is considering increasing its minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2021, four years earlier than the rest of Illinois. Polls suggest that four-in-five Chicago residents support a $15 minimum wage. By raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2021, the City of Chicago can grow the economy, reduce income inequality, reduce worker turnover, and ensure that working-class families can maintain a decent standard of living.
THE STATE OF THE UNIONS 2019: A PROFILE OF UNIONIZATION IN CHICAGO, IN ILLINOIS, AND IN THE UNITED STATES
Chicago: On Labor Day 2019, researchers from the Illinois Economic Policy Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and University of California, Irvine released the sixth annual State of the Unions report for Illinois. The study finds that unions play an important role in Illinois’ economy communities, despite declining union membership over the past decade.
Since 2009, Illinois’ union membership rate has declined by 2 percentage points. After a one-year uptick, Illinois’ unionization declined from 15.0% in 2017 to 13.8% in 2018. Unionization decreased in the Chicago metropolitan area by about 12,000 members over the year.
“Labor unions have recently faced many legislative and judicial setbacks including the Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME, which may have affected unionization rates,” said Professor Robert Bruno, who serves as Director of the Project for Middle Class Renewal at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
However, public sector workers continue to have high rates of union density. About half of all public sector workers are unionized in both Illinois (46.4%) and the Chicago metropolitan area (46.2%) as of 2018, exceeding the national public sector unionization rate (33.9%). In comparison, fewer than one-in-ten private sector workers (8.7%) are now union members in Illinois.
Despite declines in union membership, the report concludes that labor unions boost worker incomes by lifting hourly wages by an average of 11%. In addition, the authors find that African Americans, military veterans, and rural workers are disproportionately more likely to be union members in Illinois.
“Unions raise wages for everyone, but especially for low-income and middle-class workers,” said Frank Manzo IV, Policy Director of the Illinois Economic Policy Institute. “Unions reduce inequality, provide family-supporting careers for our nation’s heroes, and foster a strong middle class in communities across Illinois.”
Illinois is experiencing a shortage of registered nurses caused by insufficient staffing levels that exacerbate occupational hazards and make it difficult to retain nurses. To address these issues and improve patient care, Illinois lawmakers are considering whether to follow California’s lead and adopt safe patient limits, which would establish patient-to-nurse ratios in Illinois’ hospitals. While the Nurse Staffing by Patient Acuity Amendment to the Hospital Licensing Act requires Illinois’ hospitals to create a staffing plan based on the recommendation of one or more “nursing care committees,” only 29 percent of nurses in the state say that their hospital has a staffing committee. Of those, just 44 percent say that the recommendations determined by the committee are implemented in daily staffing decisions. Current law has not been effective at addressing the shortage of registered nurses.
On the other hand, safe patient limits would produce positive workplace outcomes for nurses if enacted in Illinois. The policy would reduce patient-to-nurse ratios and ensure that staffing levels are based on the needs of patients. By improving occupational safety and increasing nurse retention rates, safe patient limits would promote better health outcomes for patients and save lives– all while having little to no negative impact on the financial performance of Illinois’ hospitals.
A briefing for policymakers on the impact of scheduling stability on workers in Chicago and in Illinois.
A new PMCR report by Dr. Han (Post-Doctoral Research Associate), “Wage Gaps and Representation: Gender and Race in The Illinois High Tech Industry” examines Illinois tech workers’ employment and wages across gender and race groups in three core tech occupations: executives, managers, and professionals as a first step to increasing the diversity of Illinois’ tech workforce. The workforce in Illinois’ tech industries is predominantly male and white, particularly in upper core tech occupational ranks (executives, managers, and professionals). In the last decade, the workforce diversity has not changed except for two groups: an increasing proportion of women – mostly white – hold managerial positions and an increasing proportion of non-white employees, mostly male, hold professional occupations. Despite such changes the gender pay gap exists in all three core occupations and the race pay gap is clearly evident among executives. Combined together, women and minorities are not only underrepresented in tech but they are also paid less than white men. The stagnant gender pay gaps and underrepresentation of women and minorities suggest that the gaps will likely persist in the future unless there are strong interventions. Based on studies, firm adoption of “count and compare” practices should be required to monitor gender-race diversity hiring and pay equity.
Illinois is experiencing a shortage of Registered Nurses (RNs). This shortage of RNs is caused by numerous factors, including rising demand for health care services, the labor market competitiveness of Illinois nursing jobs, and insufficient staffing levels that can exacerbate the occupational hazards of the profession and undermine the quality of patient care. To improve patient outcomes, Illinois needs to attract and retain more Registered Nurses. Broader support for collective bargaining can encourage more competitive RN salaries. In addition, safe patient limits for nurses would help reduce occupational hazards– which can dissuade many from joining the profession– while also improving patient outcomes and saving lives.
The minimum wage is intended to ensure that working-class families can maintain a decent standard of living. Illinois’ Minimum Wage Law states that an employer who pays wages below “the minimum standard of living for the health, efficiency and general well-being of workers… places an unnecessary burden on the taxpayers of this State” (Illinois General Assembly, 2018). Despite this acknowledgement that poverty-level wages foster reliance on social safety net programs, a full-time worker earning today’s state minimum wage rate of $8.25 per hour brings home just $17,160 in annual income. This is now $4,170 below the federal poverty line for a family of three and $8,590 below the federal poverty line for a family of four (HHS, 2019). Illinois’ current minimum wage of $8.25 fails to prevent workers from earning poverty-level wages. A uniform $15 minimum wage in Illinois would allow working-class families to maintain a decent standard of living in every community across the state. By raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, Illinois can boost worker incomes, reduce poverty, promote housing affordability, increase consumer demand, and grow the economy.
Illinois has the one of the most unfair tax systems in the United States. In response, Governor J.B. Pritzker and the General Assembly have debated whether to amend the Illinois Constitution to allow the state to replace its flat-rate income tax system with a progressive (or “graduated-rate”) income tax. Illinois is currently one of only eight states that has a flat-rate tax, while 33 states have progressive income tax systems. The Project for Middle Class Renewal (PMCR) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI) have jointly evaluated the effects of 8 different scenarios for adopting a progressive income tax in the state, including the governor’s proposed “fair tax.” The scenarios are intended to serve as examples for voters and lawmakers. A progressive income tax would transform Illinois’ tax code by bringing middle-class tax burdens down towards rates in neighboring states. Moving to a graduated-rate structure could make the state’s tax code fairer, cut income taxes for working-class and middle-class families, provide opportunities for property tax relief, help balance the budget, and provide revenue to fund essential public services that contribute to the growth of the Illinois economy.
Currently around 631,029 veterans (men and women) of all eras and 90,000 post-9/11 veterans reside in Illinois. Prior studies at the national level suggest that post-9/11 veterans are at higher risk of unemployment and face earnings penalties or premiums in different occupations and sectors once they get a job.
As the local labor market contexts may produce different circumstances for veterans in Illinois, the report, “Illinois Veterans Employment and Earnings Profiles: The Impact of Local Labor Markets,” from the Project for Middle Class Renewal at the School of Labor and Employment Relations, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign creates an earnings profile of Illinois veterans. The analysis focuses primarily on post-9/11 veterans.
The near ubiquitous claim that Illinois is facing a “pension crisis” has rarely been challenged. The failure to examine this customary framing of the fiscal condition of Illinois’ five state pension systems limits how policymakers conceptualize their funding strategy. This white paper, jointly authored by researchers from the Project for Middle Class Renewal at the School of Labor and Employment Relations, the Government Finance Research Center and the Institute of Government and Public Affairs (all at the University of Illinois), argues that the “pension crisis” framework negatively influences discussions of policy options.
Rather than a singular problem, we contend that there are actually two, interrelated and in-conflict issues: concern over the pension systems’ finances, and operating budgets where expenses regularly exceed revenues. A tension exists between a desire to rapidly improve the finances of the pension systems (which would necessitate higher state contributions), and an interest in preventing pension contributions from crowding out other areas of the state budget. Illinois lawmakers have long sought a silver bullet solution that will not increase (or even lower) the state’s required contributions while simultaneously shoring up the pension systems’ finances. We view such a scenario as unattainable and its pursuit as a distraction from the job of responsible policymaking. Moreover, because the two issues are interrelated, a policy designed to address one issue will necessarily worsen the other.
The last time that Illinois increased its minimum wage was in July 2010. A total of 13 states now have minimum wages of $10 per hour or higher, and four have enacted legislation to gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Recent research shows that raising the minimum wage boosts worker incomes while having little to no effect on employment, business growth, and consumer prices. In this report, the Project for Middle Class Renewal (PMCR) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI) evaluates the regional impacts of a statewide $15 minimum wage. A $15 minimum wage would directly affect more than 1.4 million adult workers in Illinois. Of these individuals, 57 percent are women, 44 percent are African American workers and Latino and Latina workers, 89 percent are U.S. citizens, and 56 percent are workers age 30 or older. A $15 minimum wage would have the largest impact on low-income workers in communities outside of the Chicago metro area. While the policy change would raise incomes by about $5,000 for directly affected workers in the Chicago area, it would increase earnings for low-wage workers by over $8,000 in the Springfield and Bloomington-Normal areas, over $7,000 in the Rockford and Champaign-Urbana regions, and more than $6,000 in the Illinois communities around St. Louis.
If Illinois were to legalize sports betting through the Sports Wagering Act proposed last year, net revenues for the gaming industry would increase by $400 million and about 1,800 new jobs would be created at between 30 and 75 licensed locations. The proposed bills would also raise state tax revenue by between $50 million and $120 million per year. However, due to relatively high tax rates, the proposals in the Illinois General Assembly would result in nearly half of all sports betting activity remaining in the black market.
In this report, the Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI) and the Project for Middle Class Renewal (PMCR) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, evaluates several proposals to legalize, regulate, and tax sports betting. If the General Assembly chooses to move forward on this concept, a balanced framework that combines the United Kingdom’s 15 percent tax on gross gambling revenues, a $100,000 annual license fee for sportsbooks and related establishments, and a small 0.05 percent “integrity fee” on wagers to ensure compliance and prevent fraudulent activity may offer a way forward.
There is significant public support for legalizing, regulating, and taxing recreational marijuana in Illinois. Fully 66 percent of registered voters in Illinois support legalizing marijuana, including a bi-partisan majority of Democrats and Republicans. Furthermore, 10 states and the District of Columbia have already legalized recreational marijuana.
This report finds that high taxpayer costs for law enforcement and cannabis-related incarceration would be reduced by legalizing recreational marijuana. In total, Illinois taxpayers would save $18.4 million annually in reduced incarceration costs, law enforcement spending, and legal fees from marijuana legalization. This revenue could be redirected to solve other crimes– such as homicides, robberies, and assaults.
The economy would also grow if Illinois were to legalize recreational marijuana. If marijuana were legalized, regulated, and taxed in Illinois, an estimated $1.6 billion would be sold in the state, in part due to regional tourism.
REGRESSIVE ILLINOIS: SCHOOL FUNDING, DISTRICT-LEVEL PERFORMANCE, AND ITS IMPLICATIONS FOR REVENUE AND SPENDING POLICIES
While equitable funding of K-12 public school has become an acute issue in many states, Illinois ranks among the most inequitable in its mechanisms for dispersing revenues to school districts. Illinois property taxes are the primary means for financing schools. However, due to very low state general aid, many property owners pay very high property taxes to support their schools. Consequently, the need for increased state support comes at a time when legislators have repeatedly proposed to freeze property taxes permanently, or for two to four years. Additionally, statewide bills have been introduced since 2012 that would shift pension costs, currently picked up by the state (excluding Chicago), to school districts.
This research report from the Project for Middle Class Renewal in the School of Labor and Employment Relations at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign examines the relationship between school revenue and achievement levels in Illinois.
We first examine data on local school districts from 2011-2012 to 2016-2017 to explore and illustrate how revenue and expenditures vary by rates of low-income students and other key indicators. We find at the district level, higher instructional spending is associated with statistically significant improvement in aggregate student proficiency levels, after controlling for disadvantage and other characteristics at the district level. This positive relationship generally parallels the findings of recent studies that have concluded that money does in fact matter for education.
The last time that Illinois increased its minimum wage was in July 2010. If Illinois’ minimum wage had been indexed to inflation since then, it would be nearly $10 per hour today. 13 states now have minimum wages of $10 per hour or higher, and 9 of these states have unemployment rates that are lower than or the same as Illinois. Additionally, the majority of Illinois voters support increasing the minimum wage.
The Project for Middle Class Renewal at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI) has evaluated three state minimum wage hike scenarios ($10, $13 and $15). The analysis finds that raising the minimum wage boosts worker incomes while having little to no effect on employment.
The minimum wage is intended to ensure that working-class individuals can maintain a decent standard of living. Nevertheless, Illinois’ current minimum wage of $8.25 per hour fails to prevent workers from earning poverty-level wages. By raising the minimum wage, Illinois can boost worker incomes, reduce income inequality, increase consumer demand, grow the economy, generate tax revenues, and decrease taxpayer costs for government assistance programs.
Unions play a vital role in Minnesota’s economy and communities. The Minnesota labor movement, however, will continue to face both short- and long-term challenges due to the political environment, the makeup of the United States Supreme Court, and broader economic trends. Labor’s response to these challenges will define its influence and effectiveness in the decades to come and will be critical to the survival of Minnesota’s middle class. Almost one-half of all public sector workers (46.0 percent) are unionized in Minnesota. Meanwhile, slightly more than one-third of all public sector workers are unionized across the nation (34.4 percent). In comparison, 8.3 percent of workers in Minnesota’s private sector are now union members which exceed the 6.5 percent unionization rate for private sector workers across the United States. In the future, the recent Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, et al. Supreme Court decision that prohibited fair-share “agency fee” clauses from collective bargaining agreements could result in a decline in public sector union membership in Minnesota.
Union membership is influenced by a number of factors. For example, employment in the public sector still raises the chances that a given worker is a union member. Native-born and naturalized citizens are also statistically more likely to be union members than their non-citizen counterparts. On the other hand, workers employed in the leisure and hospitality industry are all less likely to be union members than their counterparts in the production industry. Labor unions continue to increase individual incomes by lifting hourly wages. In Wisconsin, union worker wages are higher by an average of 12.0 percent. The state’s union wage effect is the 7th-highest in the nation. The union wage differential is greatest for the lowest-earning workers, where hourly incomes are increased by 12.2 percent over similar non-union workers. Unions, therefore, continue to foster a middle-class lifestyle in Wisconsin and play a vital role in Wisconsin’s economy and communities.
THE STATE OF THE UNIONS 2018: A PROFILE OF UNIONIZATION IN CHICAGO, IN ILLINOIS, AND IN THE UNITED STATES
Union membership is influenced by a number of factors. Employment in the public sector, construction, transportation and utilities, mining, educational and health services, and public administration industries all raise the chances that a given worker is a union member. African American workers are also statistically more likely to be union members than their racial or ethnic counterparts. On the other hand, workers employed in professional and related occupations, management, business, and financial occupations, workers employed in sales occupations, and financial occupations are less likely to be unionized. Labor unions increase individual incomes by lifting hourly wages, particularly for middle-income workers. In Illinois, unions raise worker wages by an average of 11.1 percent. The state’s union wage effect is the 11th-highest in the nation. The union wage differential is higher for middle-class workers (10.2 percent to 11.5 percent) than the richest 10 percent of workers (8.7 percent), helping to reduce income inequality. Unions play a vital role in Illinois’ economy and communities. The Illinois labor movement, however, will continue to face both short- and long-term challenges due to the political environment, the makeup of the United States Supreme Court, and broader economic trends. Labor’s response to these challenges will define its influence and effectiveness in the decades to come and will be critical to the long-run survival of Illinois’ middle class.
As in nearly every state and region in the United States, the healthcare sector has become an important driver of the local economy both within the Chicago region and throughout the state of Illinois. Across the long cycle of declining employment levels in traditional industries like manufacturing and the shorter cycles of recession and recovery since 2000, the health care sector has continued to add jobs. Hospital organizations continue to occupy the focal point of the health care system, but a mix of regulatory and cost-based pressures and incentives have driven a profound and uneven process of restructuring in the industry. Ownership has consolidated into multi-hospital systems even as care has decentralized outside of hospital walls. Some hospitals have closed or reduced services as others have expanded with sizable investments in construction, reorganization, and technology. In theory, hospitals have the potential to fill a crucial hole left by an increasingly bifurcated labor market. In practice, however, wages have been stagnant for many hospital workers despite increasing demand. This report focuses on workers in Illinois and the Chicago region who are employed in hospital services positions, defined here as healthcare support occupations, food preparation and service occupations, and cleaning and maintenance occupations.
THE EFFECTS OF THE CHICAGO MINIMUM WAGE ORDINANCE: HIGH INCOMES WITH LITTLE TO NO IMPACT ON EMPLOYMENT, HOURS, AND BUSINESSES IN THE FIRST TWO YEARS
On December 2, 2014, the Chicago City Council voted 44 to 5 in favor of gradually raising the minimum wage to $13.00 per hour in the city to increase earnings for 410,000 Chicago workers. This report finds that in its first two years– when the minimum wage increased to $10.00 an hour and subsequently to $10.50 an hour– the Chicago Minimum Wage Ordinance has already boosted incomes for at least 330,000 workers in the city. Overall, the higher minimum wage has been associated with an increase in worker incomes but little to no impact on employment or the number of private business establishments. An assessment of outcomes from 2010 through 2016 against both the Illinois suburbs, where the minimum wage remains $8.25 per hour, and the Indiana and Wisconsin suburbs of Chicago, where the minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, reveals that the Chicago Minimum Wage Ordinance has largely achieved its intended purposes.
The U.S. labor movement is bracing for a decision by the Supreme Court that could dramatically weaken public sector unions. The case, Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, et al., is expected to be decided in a vote against “fair share” fees in the public sector. The ruling would strike down a 41-year precedent (Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, 1977) that requires public sector workers represented by a labor union to pay for the collective bargaining work that the union performs on their behalf. If the Court strikes down Abood, workers would be able to “free ride” and receive services, benefits, and representation from unions without paying for them in the form of fair share fees or membership dues. This would impact at least 5 million state and local government employees represented by collective bargaining agreements in 23 states and the District of Columbia. This report projects the negative impact of overturning fair share including an annual drop in economic activity in the U.S. by $11.7 billion to $33.4 billion, a loss of $1,810 in wages per worker, and a decrease in teacher salaries of 5.4%.
SCHEDULING STABILITY: THE LANDSCAPE OF WORK SCHEDULES AND POTENTIAL GAINS FROM FAIRER WORKWEEKS IN ILLINOIS AND CHICAGO
Among those in the healthcare industry, it is common knowledge that threats of violence ranging from verbal to physical to sexual abuse come with the territory. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) healthcare and social assistance industries are “the most common sources of nonfatal injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work.” (Wolf et al, 2014, 305) Yet, there is surprising lack of data that reveals the rates of violence and how frontline workers, such as nurses, believe the industry should be responding. In this study of 276 Illinois nurses, we uncover that 90% of surveyed nurses experience at least one episode of workplace violence in a twelve month period with 50% of nurses experiencing six or more episodes of workplace violence in a year. This survey explores the depth of the violence and makes policy recommendations to work towards a more comprehensive set of workplace policies that could both lower workplace violence as well as improve employer responses to violence.
Despite acknowledging that state prevailing wage laws increase the incomes of blue-collar construction workers, critics of the laws dubiously claim that they have discriminatory effects– particularly against African American workers. This report, authored jointly by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI) and Project for Middle Class Renewal (PMCR) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, critically evaluates the impact of state prevailing wage laws on workers across different racial or ethnic identities in the United States. State prevailing wage laws are an important solution to racial inequality and overall inequality, boosting take-home incomes while having no negative impact on employment opportunities for underprivileged groups.
THE POTENTIAL ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES OF A HIGHLY AUTOMATED CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY: WHAT IF CONSTRUCTION BECOMES THE NEXT MANUFACTURING?
What if construction is the next manufacturing, with automation replacing hundreds of thousands of middle-class workers over the next generation? In the future, technological changes that displace human labor in the construction industry could have consequences for workers, families, and the U.S. economy. This report is a theoretical assessment of the potential economic impacts of a highly automated construction industry on the Illinois and Midwest economy. An increasingly capital-intensive construction industry could cause both economic prosperity and economic hardship. It is imperative that lawmakers, public officials, and industry stakeholders start preparing for this potential economic change. Proactive steps can be taken to ensure that the benefits of a highly automated construction industry are shared broadly across the economy
Despite gradually declining in the US over the last 8 straight years of economic recovery from the Great Recession, the rate of involuntary part-time working remains stubbornly high in the State of Illinois. Over a quarter million workers were employed but working part-time for economic reasons in Illinois. Illinois ranks 10th among the 50 states in the number of involuntary part-time workers. Illinois’ rate of labor underutilization has one in ten workers either fully or partially unemployed, still well above the pre-recession rate and the US national average. Policies are needed to accelerate its return to prior levels.
International surveys conducted by the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) found that teachers in their union suffer significantly from stress (ETUCE, 2011). Furthermore, survey data in the United States reveals that teaching is a “high stress” profession (Kyriacou, 2000). The harm caused by this stress is evident by the high rates of teacher attrition and teacher shortages. Despite these findings, teacher stress has yet to be examined over time. Also, researchers have yet to examine how the increasing use of communication technology (i.e., email, text messages) has impacted teachers’ well-being and job outcomes. It seems many teachers have to deal with constant pressure to respond to emails throughout the day. Many teachers even get email sent directly to their personal phone. This can disturb teachers even while they are away from work. These messages may make it more difficult for teachers to control their emotions, which may lead to increased stress and turnover intentions. In addition, they suffer stress from difficult students and inadequate school resources such as workplace social supports and school policies.
Despite its pervasiveness in debates over the future of work, defining the “gig economy” in a consistent and meaningful fashion remains a challenge. This challenge hinders research to understand the prevalence and effects of nonstandard work, as well as efforts to design policy to improve opportunities for nonstandard workers. While contending with fundamental limitations in the availability and applicability of data, this report attempts to empirically ground the discussion of “gig work” in a broad exploration of trends in independent contracting in Illinois. In order to do so, it is necessary to answer three basic questions: What do we mean when we say “gig work”? Why is it so difficult to describe “gig work” with confidence? What can we say about “gig work” as a whole in Illinois?
Investing in higher education is a smart economic development policy that boosts incomes, supports employment, and grows the economy. Illinois has world-class public universities and community colleges that serve as economic engines in local communities. The recent budget crisis in Illinois, however, had negative impacts on public universities and community colleges in the state. This report assesses the positive economic impacts of public universities and colleges in Illinois and measures the costs of the two-year budget impasse.
What policies improve a state’s economic performance and how do specific state laws impact economic outcomes? In an effort to provide some insight into the current debate in Illinois over measures under consideration by state lawmakers, the Project for Middle Class Renewal in the School of Labor and Employment Relations at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Illinois Economic Policy Institute have prepared this White Paper.
A HAPPINESS AND OBJECTIVE WELL-BEING INDEX (HOW-IS-IL) FOR LIVING AND WORKING IN THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, 2016-17
How happy are people in Illinois and how well are they doing? Specifically, how well is Illinois producing a high and growing standard of living for its working households? How well are its working citizens faring generally? How would we measure the answer to this question? How can we help Illinois’ households to become happier? This is the first assessment to focus exclusively on the State of Illinois and the state of its citizens’ well-being, with a single set of measures that indicates the quality of working and living in Illinois. The main purpose of this report is to create a handy, yet meaningful and useful index of 8 composite indicators. This index creates a base year composite score, reflecting not only where the state is apparently deficient, but how the quality of life and work in Illinois could be improved, both short term and long term, by revisiting the index perennially. The index creates a comprehensive grid of frequently available indicators of various aspects of others’ developed attempts to measure happiness and well-being. These estimates and the present attempt use the research-documented factors associated with it – both coincident and antecedent.
Since 2007, unionization has declined in Illinois, in the Chicago region, and in America. There are approximately 30,000 fewer union members in Illinois today than there were in 2007, contributing to the 1.1 million-member drop in union workers across the nation over that time. Declining union membership in Illinois has primarily been the result of decreases in male unionization. Consequently, the total number of labor unions and similar labor organizations has declined over the past 10 years. There are 881 labor unions and similar organizations in Illinois, a decline of nearly 70 worker establishments over the past 10 years. While the unionization rate declined from 15.2 percent to 14.5 percent, the union membership rate for public sector workers is 5.5 percentage points higher in 2016 than it was in 2007. From 2015 to 2016, unionization rates marginally increased for Latino and Latina workers.
TAKING THE PULSE OF ILLINOIS’ MIDDLE CLASS: THE CHANGING SIZE AND COMPOSITION OF MIDDLE INCOME HOUSEHOLDS, APRIL 20, 2017
Over recent years, the hollowing out of the American middle class has been a topic of much speculation and concern. During the middle of the twentieth century, the middle class rose to a position of economic and demographic dominance. The question of whether this is no longer the case is closely related to the issue of rising income and wealth inequality but focused more directly on those who fall between the extremes of rich and poor. This report aims to broadly document trends affecting the middle class in Illinois with a focus on employment.
THE IMPACT OF “RIGHT TO WORK” LAWS ON LABOR MARKET OUTCOMES IN THREE MIDWEST STATES: EVIDENCE FROM INDIANA, MICHIGAN, AND WISCONSIN (2010-2016)
The movement to implement “right-to-work” (RTW) legislation has accelerated over recent years. Since 2012, RTW laws have been passed in Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri. This report investigates the impact of RTW laws passed in three Midwest states for which there is available data – Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin – compared to a control group of three Midwest counterparts that remained collective-bargaining (CB) states – Illinois, Minnesota, and Ohio – from January 2010 through December 2016.
CLOSED BY CHOICE: THE SPATIAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CHARTER SCHOOL EXPANSION, SCHOOL CLOSURES, AND FISCAL STRESS IN CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Over the past five years, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has confronted annual budget crises prompting CPS to cut resources from classrooms, reduce the number of teaching professionals inside schools, and close public schools. Our research examines how the proliferation of charter schools in neighborhoods of declining population has contributed to CPS’ fiscal stress resulting in the widespread denigration of public education in Chicago.
Inequality has risen to historically high levels in the United States. While there are many causes, this PMCR report finds that the most important labor market change has been the long-term decline in labor union membership. Unions raise wages, particularly for lower-income and middle-class workers. Union decline explains between one-fifth and one-third of the overall increase in inequality in the United States.
Illinois needs to revamp its system of funding public education. Currently, school districts receive the bulk of their revenue from property taxes. With relatively high property tax rates and funding inequities across the state, raising property taxes in Illinois is often not an option for school districts. There are alternative policies that can be enacted at both the state- and local-level to enhance revenue for public education in Illinois. This report identifies six potential ways to increase revenue for public school districts.
The City of Chicago is experiencing extremely high rates of African-American unemployment compared to the rest of the nation. This report, conducted by researchers at the Illinois Economic Policy Institute and the Project for Middle Class Renewal at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, seeks to understand the causes of high African-American unemployment in Chicago and other urban areas across the United States. It offers seven public policies and economic phenomena that make a difference in lowering the African-American unemployment rate.
This report finds that public school teachers in Illinois are highly skilled and are compensated accordingly through competitive salaries. Properly understanding teacher pay is critical to developing an efficient teacher compensation structure. Teachers in Illinois are among the best-educated in the nation and earn appropriate incomes that reward their skill. Illinois’ teachers are highly educated, with over 62 percent of full-time public elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers in the state having earned a master’s degree. An additional 36 percent of full-time public school teachers have a bachelor’s degree. These highly skilled educators help foster the next generation of workers and innovators who will grow Illinois’ economy.
The exit-voice tradeoff has helped scholars explain lower job satisfaction among union workers compared to nonunion workers since. Scholarship has further extended the exit-voice tradeoff to within-union samples by examining job satisfaction’s relationship to union participation instead of between union and nonunion workers. But how exactly does the exit-voice tradeoff apply to moderately or highly-satisfied union members? Are they participating in the union or is low job satisfaction a pre-requisite for union activism? This report, Union Participation and the Work Fit-Job Satisfaction-Nexus: A Study of the Chicago Teachers Union identifies the presence of a missing moderator that provides insight into the job satisfaction-union participation relationship. We suggest that the felt need to protect a job that is personally meaningful has inspired CTU members to become stronger, active union members. They are in effect using their union, not to preserve the best available job open to them, but to bridge the distance between the teaching profession’s aspiration and reality.
ADVANCING CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY DIVERSITY: A PILOT STUDY OF THE EAST CENTRAL AREA BUILDING TRADES COUNCIL
The importance of the construction trades and apprenticeship programs as a unique and unparalleled pathway into middle class job opportunities for non-college graduates, inspired the Project for Middle Class Renewal in the Labor Education Program (LEP) at the University of Illinois’ School of Labor and Employment Relations to invite building trades’ apprenticeship programs to participate in a pilot diversity study. The study was designed to determine not only levels of access and involvement in the apprentice building trades by minority and female workers, but also to recommend practices that would enhance inclusivity in the industry. The goal was to address the question of how to make the “apprentice-able” construction trades the preferred labor force for both white and non-white workers.
Researchers have investigated the reasons why people pursue a career in the public sector. A compelling case has been made that individuals who pursue careers in the public sector are more highly motivated by intrinsic factors such as “work that is important” and work that “provides a feeling of accomplishment.” This report describes findings from a survey of a small group of Illinois public sector workers which investigates the work motivations of public employees. The study shows new evidence that government employees are strongly motivated to find “purpose in work that is greater than the extrinsic outcomes of the work.” Additionally, we find that government employees view their public sector union as a primary source of intrinsic motivation.
Higher earnings for Illinois workers resulting from a minimum wage increase stand to have impacts on their ability to sustain families and cover expenses. The greatest impact, however, might be in housing affordability. Housing costs, whether in the form of rent or mortgage payments and maintenance costs, make up the largest monthly expense for most households. This report examines what impact a minimum wage increase would have on housing affordability among working households. Minimum wage increases, however, effect more than just housing affordability. This report also explores reductions in reliance on public assistance programs as well as what impact changes to the minimum wage will have on employment levels and on state and local tax revenue. This study was funded by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Labor Education Program Project for Middle Class Renewal and was co-authored by the Nathalie P. Voorhees Center for Neighborhood & Community Improvement at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Labor Education Program at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Almost one half of all public sector workers are unionized in Minnesota and over half of all public sector workers are unionized in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Meanwhile, slightly more than one-third of all public sector workers are unionized across the nation. In comparison, fewer than one-in-ten (8.0 percent) Minnesotans who work in the private sector are union members while just 6.7 percent of private sector workers are now unionized across America. There is a lot of positive news for Minnesota’s labor movement. Labor unions increase individual incomes by lifting hourly wages – particularly for low-income and middle-class workers. In Minnesota, unions raise worker wages by an average of 11.1 percent. The state’s union wage effect is the 11th-highest in the nation. The union wage differential is higher for the median worker (13.6 percent) than the richest 10 percent of workers (11.0 percent), helping to foster a strong middle class and reduce income inequality.
Despite the presence of registered apprenticeships in many Illinois industries, especially construction, little policy research has been conducted to analyze their economic and social impacts. This study, authored jointly by the Project for Middle Class Renewal at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Illinois Economic Policy Institute, investigates the effect of registered apprenticeship programs on the workers, businesses, governments, and economy of Illinois. The study reveals that registered apprenticeship programs in Illinois’ construction industry provide $1.25 billion in long-term economic benefits to the state. If all registered apprenticeship programs for construction were combined, they would be the 7th-largestprivate post-secondary educational institution in Illinois.
THE COSTS AND BENEFITS OF INTERNATIONAL TRADE IN ILLINOIS: ESTIMATING IMPACTS ON MANUFACTURING AND THE ECONOMY
There has been a general consensus among economists that international free trade is an important source of economic growth for countries. However, recent evidence finds that trade hurts local jobs and worsens income inequality. Mass job displacement can have significant effects on the national economy and public budget. This report focuses on the impact of trade on Illinois’ manufacturing sector. As the 5th-largest exporter state and the 6th-largest importer state in the nation, Illinois is particularly exposed to international trade. Imports and exports help make Illinois the transportation hub of America. Illinois, however, has lost more than 100,000 total manufacturing jobs over the past decade.
This report, conducted by researchers at the Midwest Economic Policy Institute and the Project for Middle Class Renewal at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign analyzes the course of unionization in Indiana and in the United States from 2006 to 2015. Data from 2015 are also analyzed for the Indianapolis metropolitan statistical area (MSA). The study of Indiana tracks unionization rates and investigates union membership across demographic, educational, sectoral, industry, and occupational classifications. The study subsequently evaluates the impact that labor union membership has on a worker’s hourly wage in Indiana and in America. Additionally, data on labor unions and similar labor organizations are included and analyzed. As of 2015, the overall union membership rate is 10.0 percent in Indiana. A major finding of the report shows that Indiana’s “right-to-work” law has contributed to lower union membership. After the policy was implemented in 2012, union membership fell from 11.2 percent in 2011 to 10 in 2015. Other highlights include: Men are much more likely to be unionized (13.2 percent) than women (6.6 percent) and public sector unionization (27.4 percent) is nearly four times as high in Indiana as private sector unionization (7.5 percent).
This report, conducted by researchers at the Midwest Economic Policy Institute, the University of Wisconsin-Extension School for Workers, and the Project for Middle Class Renewal at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign analyzes the course of unionization in Wisconsin, in the Milwaukee metropolitan statistical area (MSA), and in the United States from 2006 to 2015. The study of Iowa tracks unionization rates and investigates union membership across demographic, educational, sectoral, industry, and occupational classifications. The study subsequently evaluates the impact that labor union membership has on a worker’s hourly wage in Iowa and in the United States. Additionally, data on labor unions and similar labor organizations are included and analyzed. A few major findings of the report include: Declining union membership in Wisconsin has resulted from a number of factors, including the ongoing effects of Act 10 on the public sector and the continued loss of manufacturing jobs. From 2014 to 2015, union membership dropped 3.3 percentage points, from 11.6 percent to 8.3 percent.
This report, conducted by researchers at the Midwest Economic Policy Institute and the Project for Middle Class Renewal at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign analyzes the course of unionization in Iowa and in the United States from 2006 to 2015. Some data from 2015 are also analyzed for the Iowa City metropolitan statistical area (MSA). This version for Iowa tracks unionization rates and investigates union membership across demographic, educational, sectoral, industry, and occupational classifications. The study subsequently evaluates the impact that labor union membership has on a worker’s hourly wage in Iowa and in America. Additionally, data on labor unions and similar labor organizations are included and analyzed. A few notable findings from the report include: Unionization has declined in Iowa. Today, there are approximately 23,500 fewer union members in Iowa than there were in 2006, contributing to the reduction of 573,000 union workers across the nation over the past ten years. The decline in union membership has occurred in both the public sector and the private sector in Iowa. Consequently, the total number of labor unions and similar labor organizations has declined over the past decade. There are 211 labor unions and similar organizations in Iowa, a decline of 36 establishments over the past ten years (-15.5 percent).
This report, conducted by researchers at the Illinois Economic Policy Institute, the University of Illinois Project for Middle Class Renewal, and Occidental College, analyzes the course of unionization in Illinois, in the Chicago metropolitan statistical area (MSA), and in the United States from 2006 to 2015. It is the third annual report of its kind for union members in the Chicago area and in Illinois. The report tracks unionization rates and investigates union membership across demographic, educational, sectoral, industry, and occupational classifications. The study subsequently evaluates the impact that labor union membership has on a worker’s hourly wage in Illinois, in the Chicago MSA, and in America. Additionally, data on labor unions and similar labor organizations are included and analyzed, new for the 2016 version of this report.
Over the past five years, more than 1 million veterans have exited the military and entered the civilian workforce. Ensuring that those who served the country are able to secure stable civilian employment is a priority for the country. Construction, a fast-growing industry where employers report widespread skills shortages, is a vital option for blue-collar veterans who are either unable or uninterested in attending college. Despite the fact that construction is a popular sector of employment for veterans when they return home and enter civilian life, no economic research has explicitly investigated the impacts that prevailing wage laws have on the economic and labor market outcomes of veterans. This report is a statistical exploration of the impact of state prevailing wage laws on America’s veterans.
THE APPLICATION AND IMPACT OF LABOR UNION DUES IN ILLINOIS: AN ORGANIZATIONAL AND INDIVIDUAL-LEVEL ANALYSIS
An estimated 15.2 percent of Illinois’ workers are represented by a union. These workers can voluntarily choose to leave their unionized workplace, opt out of paying certain dues, or vote to decertify their labor organization. Thus, labor unions in Illinois must continually demonstrate how workers benefit from contributing membership dues. This Policy Brief, conducted jointly by the he Project for Middle-Class Renewal (PMCR) at the School of Labor and Employment Relations, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI) evaluates union membership in Illinois. The report breaks down how union dues are spent in Illinois by activity, including political activities and lobbying. Upon examining the individual cost of membership and where dollars go, the personal benefits of union membership for Illinois workers are also explored.
AN ANALYSIS OF THE IMPACT OF PREVAILING WAGE THRESHOLDS ON PUBLIC CONSTRUCTION: IMPLICATIONS FOR ILLINOIS
A state prevailing wage law supports construction workers employed on public infrastructure projects. The policy requires that workers employed on projects funded by taxpayer dollars are compensated according to hourly wage and benefits rates normally paid on similar private and public projects in an area. This report is an evaluation of contract thresholds for project coverage under the prevailing wage law. The report reviews the academic and policy research on the effects that increases in state contract thresholds have on business, the labor market and economic outcomes. The analysis is subsequently applied to Illinois to forecast effects if Illinois were to introduce a prevailing wage threshold.
A FLOWING ECONOMY: HOW CLEAN WATER INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENTS SUPPORT GOOD JOBS IN CHICAGO AND IN ILLINOIS
Clean water infrastructure investments are critical to a healthy economy. A sustainable system of clean water distribution and treatment is not only necessary to prevent contamination, restoring natural waterways, eliminating flood damage, and mitigate the potential impacts of climate change, but clean water infrastructure contributes to long-term economic growth. This report provides an analysis of clean water infrastructure in Illinois, especially in the Chicago area.
Fast food workers in Chicago suffer from the uncertainty of not knowing how many hours they will work in any given week and the lack of autonomy to voice their concerns without fear of reprisal. Unstable schedules lead to tangible income insecurity and the inability for workers to obtain supplemental employment or even attend schooling to improve their job prospects. This report, The Shift-Work Shuffle: Flexibility and Instability for Chicago’s Chicago Fast Food Workforce, addresses the elements and impacts of irregular scheduling in Chicago’s fast food industry.
To contact the authors please call Professor Bob Bruno at 312-996-2491.