- February 16, 2022
- Laura Dresser, Pablo Aquiles-Sanchez, and Adam Kanter
There’s a crisis in service work in Milwaukee. Too many of these jobs—in food service, janitorial work, security services, and human and health services—offer low wages, inadequate and often unpredictable hours, and benefits packages that are usually weak, if they exist at all. For Milwaukee, these jobs have been a sorry replacement for the good union manufacturing jobs that once defined opportunity in the city. This economic transformation has especially damaged Milwaukee’s Black community, resulting in extreme racial disparity.
All of this was well documented before COVID-19. In the last two years, the underlying crisis in these jobs has been exposed and it has grown. Until we build a strong, consistent floor of better wages, more predictable hours, and stronger benefits in these jobs, the crisis will continue.
The City of Milwaukee can help to lead this effort. In every aspect of policy, the City can seek to strengthen job quality, raise labor standards, and support and build a high-road approach to service work in the city
Blogs, reports, and data to help describe current labor market conditions, address the labor shortage narrative, and discuss the need for continued UI:
Statements and blog posts responding to states pulling out of federal UI supplements:
Other potentially useful reports and data:
News Articles Mentioned:
Overall, the pandemic economy has not been kind to women, particularly women of color. Since March 2020, women have lost 5.4 million net jobs, nearly 1 million more than men. Service industries that tend to have higher concentrations of women workers, including women of color, were the hardest hit by the virus. Pre-pandemic, those jobs often paid less and offered fewer benefits—like health care or paid leave—that might have helped women better weather this particular crisis. Frankly, the pre-pandemic economy wasn’t particularly kind to women either, especially women of color and immigrant women who were more likely to work in these industries.
Expanding Pennsylvania’s use of work-sharing—reduced work hours and pay combined with partial unemployment benefits so that workers experience a smaller income loss—could be instrumental in reducing unemployment during the current recession and accelerating a safe return to fuller employment. Such expansion would cost the state little or nothing because of 100% federal reimbursement for work-sharing unemployment benefits through at least December 31, 2020, and nearly $4 million in grants available to Pennsylvania through 2023. This brief details executive and administrative actions that Pennsylvania could take to expand work sharing and mitigate the damage of the current recession to workers and families, businesses, and the state’s economy.