EARN in the Midwest

EARN in the Midwest promotes racial, gender, and economic justice. We aim to advance policies that address the needs of working families and reduce the racial disparities that plague our region.

We will do this by forging deeper partnerships between EARN groups and grassroots organizations, so they can more effectively collaborate in pursuit of shared goals. We believe there is untapped potential in such collaborations and we will help EARN groups and grassroots partners, state by state, build the capacity that will make collaboration feasible.  Because racial inequality plays such a significant role in the well-being of working families, our aim is to work with grassroots organizations run by and advocating for people of color.

We’re building an intentional community of EARN groups and grassroots partners across the Midwest. We’ll hold strategy sessions, seminars and workshops, larger convenings, and our annual EARNCon, where groups can exchange ideas and hear from each other. Every state will have a different experience of EARN in the Midwest, and it is through region-wide communications that all will learn. EARN staff at EPI will help coordinate this work and offer additional assistance and resources as needed.

Our work is suffused with a vision of racial and gender equity, which cannot be separated from the goal of policy changes to support working families. Within that vision, there are myriad paths EARN groups and grassroots organizations may choose to follow in their states: different issues to prioritize and different modalities for advancing policy goals. We will use our Heartland Partnership Fund to provide subgrants that will help those collaborations build capacity to carry out their strategies.

As opportunities present, and as the Initiative proceeds, we will use what we learn to consider multi-state or region-wide plans for change. We hope to end the first two years of the initiative with both clear advances in policy goals, and a roadmap for building sustainable relationships between EARN groups and grassroots partners that can continue good work together in the years to come.



Facts From the Frontline: Getting By in Milwaukee’s Abundant Low Wage Service Jobs

  • March 22, 2023
  • Pablo Aquiles-Sanchez, and Laura Dresser

Over the past 40 years, the union manufacturing jobs that once flourished in Milwaukee have been replaced by low-wage, non-union service jobs, exacerbating racial and economic disparities. Properly addressing the intertwined issues of declining union and manufacturing jobs and growing racial disparity starts with restructuring the city’s service sector. In this report, we take a deep look into the city’s service jobs across multiple industries and occupations. We also hear from workers themselves on what is empowering them and what remains unaddressed on the city’s economic frontlines.


Playing with Public Money in Milwaukee: Data, Context and Question on Soccer Stadiums

  • March 22, 2023
  • Pablo Aquiles-Sanchez, and Laura Dresser

Developers often approach cities disguising their private ventures as irresistible public goods. Asking for public money for sports stadiums and entertainment venues, they promise economic development, urban renewal, and neighborhood revitalization. Despite the big promises, public investments are often neither transparent nor accountable. As a result, securing public benefit from these deals is rare.

Developers have seized soccer’s increasing popularity to design soccer stadium projects with ancillary commercial and residential development in urban centers across the nation. As with other urban developments and sports stadiums, the payoffs for communities remain murky at best.

This trend has come to Milwaukee. In May 2022, Kenosha-based Bear Development and Kacmarcik Enterprises released a development plan for an “Iron District” on the southwestern end of downtown Milwaukee. Playing with Public Money in Milwaukee provides Milwaukee residents and political leaders background information and additional context as this proposal is considered, offering an overview of relevant research on the economic impact of sports arenas and information on recent public investment in soccer stadiums in five other cities.


Making the most of the American Rescue Plan

  • April 8, 2021
  • Wendy Patton, Will Petrik, Michael Shields, Piet van Lier

Government works best when it works for all of us. After years of policies slanted in favor of the wealthy few and big corporations, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) will rebuild after the pandemic recession from the ground up instead of the top down. It will help families pay the rent, feed their kids, fix the car and resume their lives. It will allow local governments, schools, colleges, transit agencies and other public employers to rehire laid-off workers, re-open recreation centers, put buses back on the streets and teachers back in the classroom. The ARPA will provide targeted relief to those who have been hurt most by the pandemic and those who have been harmed by years of policies that prioritize the wealthy at everyone else’s expense.