All Publications

  • Pablo Aquiles-Sanchez, and Laura Dresser. Facts From the Frontline: Getting By in Milwaukee’s Abundant Low Wage Service Jobs. COWS, 2023.

    Over the past 40 years, the union manufacturing jobs that once flourished in Milwaukee have been replaced by low-wage, non-union service jobs, exacerbating racial and economic disparities.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.

  • In May 2022, Kenosha-based Bear Development and Kacmarcik Enterprises announced plans to begin work on a soccer stadium accompanied by ancillary, mixed-use developments – “The Iron District” – in downtown Milwaukee. This report centers the question of how to ensure true community benefits from public investment in private interests such as the Iron District. If local political leaders commit public money to private projects in Milwaukee, then political leaders must secure and advance the public interest. A strong Community Benefit Agreement (CBA) is the most certain and robust way for communities to obtain real and lasting returns from large-scale private developments.

  • 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.

  • Laura Dresser, Pablo Aquiles-Sanchez, and Adam Kanter. The Crisis in Milwaukee’s Service Industry. COWS, 2022.

    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.

  • Laura Dresser, and Walker Kahn. Toward a New Tradition in "Nontraditional Occupations". COWS, 2021.

    For decades, a handful of women have been celebrated as pioneers in construction, manufacturing, transportation, and distribution careers. Despite years of work, these occupations remain “nontraditional” for women and people of color and present unique barriers and challenges. Raising Women’s Success in Apprenticeship (RSWA) is driving systemic change to make these industries more open, accepting, and inclusive of nontraditional workers. This report summarizes the network’s work, identifies key factors of success for getting women into nontraditional jobs, and identifies the remaining challenges that will require a substantial change in policy and practice to make success for women the norm.

  • Xavier de Sousa Briggs, and Joel Rogers. “A More Democratic Federalism?”. Democracy, Vol. 62, 2021.
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  • Scott Bernstein, and Joel Rogers. 7 Steps to Municipal Resilience & Recovery. COWS, 2021, p. 9.
  • Laura Dresser, Adam Kanter, and Joel Rogers. The State of Working Wisconsin 2021. COWS, 2021.

    Released for Labor Day 2021, the State of Working Wisconsin report focuses on how working people are doing and continues to shine a spotlight on the state’s brutal Black-white disparities.

    A project of COWS, the State of Working Wisconsin has presented the workers’ perspective on the economy in the state for more than two decades: who is winning, and who is being left out; where is disparity growing; and what’s happening to the economic chasm separating Black and white workers in the state.

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  • $15 by 2025: Who Gains with a Higher Minimum Wage in Wisconsin is a short fact sheet about the demographics of who would benefit from raising the minimum wage by 2025 and how Wisconsin compares to other states on this issue.

  • Saumya Jain, Eric Sundquist, and Chris McCahill. A Pathway to Healthy Growth in Eau Claire. 2020.

    The long-term health, sustainability and equity of Eau Claire, like any other community, depend on the policies and regulations that shape future development and transportation investments. As outlined in the City’s Comprehensive Plan, these policies should promote compact development and reinvestment in existing neighborhoods. This report leverages new and existing data—including accessibility analysis and property value information—to highlight key areas of opportunity and frame supportive policies to help move the City forward.

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