Panel: New Perspectives on Insecurity in Low-Wage Work
(Poverty and Income Policy)

Saturday, November 9, 2019: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Plaza Court 2 (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Organizer:  Crystal Hall, University of Washington
Panel Chair:  Daniel Schneider, University of California, Berkeley
Discussant:  Alix Gould-Werth, Washington Center for Equitable Growth

The nature of low-wage work continues to rapidly evolve in the United States. The quick and steady pace of technological change has required workers to be creative and nimble, employers to make challenging decisions regarding how to support their employees, and policymakers and nonprofits to carefully consider their role in promoting both safe and productive workplaces and a strong economy. In recent years, policy changes including minimum wage increases, paid sick leave, and secure scheduling have been closely followed across the country. While these high profile policies clearly have the potential to create significant short and long-term impacts on workers, they are by no means exhaustive. There are still disparities in earnings and worker experience that can be attributed to other features of the workplace.

In this panel, we present novel research that explores some additional challenges in the landscape of low-wage work. The first paper presents qualitative research that describes the perceptions of service charges (as an alternative to tipping) by restaurant workers. They compare front and back of house workers, and show that these policies may disproportionately benefit kitchen staff and complicate the relationship between front of house workers and the customers that they serve. While service charge policies may be a way to decrease volatility and discrimination, this work suggests that there may be additional unintended consequences.

The next paper explores the gender wage gap in the retail and service sectors. Using a new employer and employee matched data set (The Shift Project), they estimate how firm-level segregation contributes to a gender wage gap. They determine a modest unadjusted wage gap, but none of the gender wage gap is explained by demographic characteristics, managerial status, or compensating differentials. After controlling for firm, the gender wage gap is further reduced.

The final paper presents evidence on workplace social networks in low-wage, precarious workplaces. They also use data from The Shift Project to explore workplace relationship among retail workers, and find that many forms of temporal instability are associated with fewer workplace relationships. They are argue that these findings present new opportunities for research and may open up new avenues for workplace collective action. This evidence provides a more nuanced perspective on the nature of workplace relationships and the implications of these relationships.

We close with comments by our discussant, a senior policy analyst at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. Taken together, this panel provides compelling evidence that allows for a deeper and more nuanced consideration of challenges faced by low-wage workers in a rapidly changing landscape of workplaces and workplace policies.

Service Charges Versus Tipping: Perceived Impacts on Service Workers
Crystal Hall, University of Washington and Annette Case, Independent Consultant

Firm Segregation and the Gender Wage Gap: Evidence from the New Employer-Employee Linked Data in the U.S. Service Sector
Carmen Brick1, Daniel Schneider1 and Kristen Harknett2, (1)University of California, Berkeley, (2)University of California, San Francisco

Workplace Networks and Precarious Work: New Survey Evidence
Hana Shepherd, Rutgers University and Adam Reich, Columbia University

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