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SEIU 32BJ and COWS | Jul 11, 2014
Category: COWS, Jobs & Skills, State & Local Policy
Nearly one in four Boston families lives in poverty and incomes in the Greater Boston area are more unequally distributed than in the vast majority of other metro areas around the country. The good news is that the City has a number of important tools that can be engaged to address these problems. However, in order to maximize its effectiveness, the City will have to re-focus and re-organize its approach to economic development. Critically, the City must make combatting poverty and inequality a core priority in all of its programs. Moreover, the City should adopt a broader and more proactive vision of economic development and reorganize programs and structures accordingly. This report, co-written with SEIU 32BJ, identifies five key ways in which the City can re-focus and re-organize its programs and provides a number of specific recommendations of steps the City should take. 

Key Recommendations:
  1. Use every possible point of leverage in the City's purchasing, development and financial systems to create good, family-sustaining jobs with decent wages, paid time off, health insurance and adequate hours.
  2. Fully enforce and expand the application of the Boston Living Wage ordinance. Expand the scope of the Living Wage ordinance to provide for paid time off, health insurance and full time work.
  3. Re-organize the structure of planning and development agencies, primarily the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) to include a focus on creating family-sustaining jobs, affordable housing and community building. Strict accountability standards are needed to ensure developers are meeting goals and standards.
  4. Initiate a comprehensive planning process which involves all impacted communities in development of a vision and plan for Boston.
  5. In all things prioritize equity of access for all city residents and ease of entry and participation in city life for all groups, including recent immigrants.
Satya Rhodes-Conway, James Irwin, and Adam Schepker | Jul 07, 2014
Category: Energy: Energy Efficiency, State & Local Policy

If there was a way to save money, improve the workplaces of state employees, create jobs and reduce pollution all at once, wouldn’t you want your state to do it? 


Buildings consume more than 40 percent of energy used in the United States.1 We waste a tremendous amount of this energy on heating and air conditioning that escapes the building, on illuminating vacant spaces, and on running machinery constantly. Reducing this waste creates jobs for those increasing the building’s efficiency, saves money for the building operator, increases occupant productivity and health, and reduces climate and air pollution. Even more impressive, it is an idea that can pay for itself: You can capture the value of the energy wasted and use that to pay for the cost of the building upgrades over time.


This document is one of several designed to help Government/Municipal, University, School and Hospital (MUSH) entities implement energy efficiency upgrades of their building stock. For a comprehensive look at the sector, please see MAKING M.U.S.H. ENERGY EFFICIENT: Energy Efficiency in the Governmental and Institutional Sector, available at For information about residential and commercial building energy efficiency programs, please see www.

Bill Holloway, Chris Spahr, and Satya Rhodes-Conway | May 02, 2014
Category: State & Local Policy, Transportation

Freight transportation is a critical element of both our national and local economies. Yet, it creates a number of challenges for cities due to congestion, emissions, crashes, noise and other factors. This report provides your city with low cost policy-driven measures to reduce the negative impacts of freight transportation.


Increasing the efficiency of freight movement and addressing the social costs and environmental justice issues of freight transportation are not mutually exclusive. The strategies identified in this report can help cities meet their transportation challenges in the years ahead while promoting just, healthy, and sustainable freight practices.

Ceri Jenkins, Adam Schepker, and Satya Rhodes-Conway | Mar 12, 2014
Category: Jobs & Skills: Workforce Development & Industry Partnerships, State & Local Policy, High Road
Every city has a food economy and most have at least the beginnings of a local food value chain. This means that every city has an opportunity to increase local economic activity, create jobs, and promote healthy, local food by helping local businesses to capture more of this market. Cities should include local food as part of their economic development efforts, and this paper will help them do that. Nationally, the trend is toward local food – cities should take advantage of this. This report, written by the Mayors Innovation Project (a COWS initiative), is a complement to the previous report, Promoting Access to Healthy, Local Food.
Wisconsin Budget Project and COWS | Feb 28, 2014
Category: COWS, High Road, Wisconsin

Income inequality continues to grow in Wisconsin and the United States, producing an ever-widening chasm between the rich and poor. Over the last 40 years, Wisconsin’s richest residents have experienced dramatic increases in income, while Wisconsinites not among the very highest earners saw their incomes stagnate or decline.

Wisconsin’s growth and prosperity are not being equally shared. The rewards of prosperity have been concentrated on the richest 1%. As a state, this should be of substantial concern, not only because of the slow or non-existent growth in incomes for the remaining 99% percent of families, but also because increasing disparity comes with substantial social costs.

All data in this report comes from The Increasingly Unequal States of America: Income Inequality by State, 1917 to 2011, written by Estelle Sommeiller and Mark Price for the Economic Analysis and Research Network. Published by the Economic Policy Institute, the report explores the evolution of top income shares at the state level and provides the figures that allow this analysis of top incomes in Wisconsin. Income figures are presented in 2011 dollars.

Laura Dresser | Feb 24, 2014
Category: COWS, High Road, Wisconsin, Jobs & Skills: Job Quality & Industry Studies, Jobs & Skills: Wisconsin Economy, Workers & Policy

This report analyzes the economic impact of a minimum wage increase to $10.10 per hour for Wisconsin workers. Increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 by July 2016 would increase wages for over half a million Wisconsin workers. Additionally, as parents see wages go up, some 234,000 Wisconsin children will see family income rise as a result. Of the 587,000 Wisconsin workers who would be affected by raising the wage to $10.10, 57 percent are women, 79 percent of workers are 20 years old or older, 47 percent of workers have at least some college education, 42 percent of workers work more than 35 hours per week, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) are in families with income under than $60,000.



Additionally, the report addresses the claim that increasing the minimum wage destroys jobs. Over the last twenty years, numerous studies have confirmed that minimum wage increases do not reduce overall employment levels. A letter signed by nearly 600 economists, including seven Nobel prize winners and eight past presidents of the American Economic Association, states that “the weight of evidence now [shows] that increases in the minimum wage have had little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum-wage workers, even during times of weakness in the labor market.” 


COWS Staff | Feb 06, 2014
Category: COWS, Jobs & Skills, State & Local Policy, High Road

Summary (82 pg)

Full Report (328 pg)


This report is based on the practical experience and struggle of elected officials and advocates from around the country in moving their communities onto the “high road” of shared prosperity, environmental sustainability, and efficient democratic government. Its goal is to arm progressive local elected leaders and advocates with a range of effective policies that, if adopted, would make a significant difference in getting on that high road. They will be able to use better democratic organization to add value, reduce waste, and capture and share locally the great benefits of doing both.


Watch official report release, with a discussion including COWS Director Joel Rogers, below>>


Our full report on some of this work is organized into eight areas of local government policy and responsibility:

• Economic development and job creation
• Infrastructure
• Revenue
• Job standards
• Housing
• Education
• Health
• Civil rights

Michele Mackey, Matías Cociña, and Laura Dresser | Dec 23, 2013
Category: COWS, State & Local Policy, Wisconsin, Jobs & Skills: Wisconsin Economy, Workers & Policy

Wisconsin has the regrettable distinction of ranking among the worst states in the nation in terms of racial equality. Various aspects of the disparity – from education to jobs and income to incarceration – have been documented consistently for more than a decade. This report pulls together a range of data from public sources to make the racial disparities in the state clear. Brutal inequities in the state span measures of poverty, unemployment, educational attainment, and incarceration.

Laura Dresser | Dec 16, 2013
Category: COWS, State & Local Policy, High Road, Jobs & Skills: Job Quality & Industry Studies, Jobs & Skills: Wisconsin Economy, Workers & Policy

The Living Wage Ordinance for Milwaukee County would establish a floor on wages of $12.45 per hour for the work done in support of the public priorities achieved through county contracts, leases, and concessions. Using the best estimates of covered workers available, a new paper from the Center on Wisconsin Strategy simulates the impact of the $12.45 living wage on covered workers.

Mary Ebeling and Satya Rhodes-Conway | Dec 04, 2013
Category: Transportation
Across the country, urban freeways are at the end of their design lives, and cities are wrestling with the question of how to deal with them. Cities have the opportunity to rethink, remove, or repurpose urban freeway space, which can address environmental and social justice harm and result in significant local economic and social benefits.
Re-Thinking the Urban Freeway provides cities with best practices and solutions from across the country, to help cities mitigate negative freeway impacts and secure a healthy and more prosperous future.

This brief was written by Mary Ebeling, Transportation Policy Analyst with the State Smart Transportation Initiative and Satya Rhodes-Conway, the managing director of the Mayors Innovation Project and a former councilmember in Madison, Wisconsin.