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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.