The pandemic especially hurt the work/life balance of women. The stressors haven’t gone away.

It’s having a deep impact on the labor force. According to a 2023 report from High Roads Strategy Center, part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wisconsin’s women labor force participation dropped below 60% for the first time since the late 1980s.

“Our relative (workforce) advantage shrank quite substantially over the last two years,” said Laura Dresser, associate director of High Roads Strategy Center. “We know that child care has been in crisis, even before the pandemic. Our structures for taking care of kids tend to weigh heavily on women and on women’s work.”

Workers, unions, and the public interest

We welcome Laura Dresser, Associate Director, of the High Road Strategy Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Peter Rickman, president, Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality Workers Union to discuss the finding and key policy and organizing implications of a new High Road Center report, “From Community Benefits, to Collective Bargaining, and Back.”

Exploring the labor union developed to protect workers in Milwaukee’s Deer District

Dresser is the associate director of the High Road Strategy Center, a think-tank that in-part looks at employment conditions in Wisconsin. But in the case of the Deer District, developers created a community benefits agreement ensuring certain rights for its future employees. That led to the creation of MASH — the Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality Workers Organization, a labor union that represents these workers. A recent report from High Road Strategy Center details the benefits this union and agreement it has brought to its workers.

Low-wage workers say Royals haven’t earned their votes to build a downtown Kansas City ballpark

Laura Dresser, a labor economist at the University of Wisconsin, recently co-authored a report about what a robust community benefits agreement can do for a community. She told KCUR that the Royals could learn a lesson from the community benefits agreement the Milwaukee Bucks signed when that NBA franchise built its new stadium.

Thousands of Californians got a shot at better careers through this program. Is it working?

The High Road program is an improvement compared to many other workforce programs, which often prioritize training people for jobs regardless of the quality, said Laura Dresser, the associate director of the High Road Strategy Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She helped coin the term “high road” and served as a consultant to California’s workforce programs in 2017.