August 24, 2011

Public Sector Jobs Central to Development of Black Middle Class

Amisha Patel of Grassroots Collaborative
advocates for public-sector jobs like those at UIC.

UIC EMPLOYEES are “public sector” workers, and “the public sector has long been a source of good, living-wage jobs,” said Amisha Patel, executive director of the Grassroots Collaborative. “In Chicago, public employment has been central to the development of the Black middle class.”

FIGURES FROM a study by the Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California Berkeley back Patel up:

* The public sector employs 23.6% of Black workers in Chicago, compared to 10.8% of non-Black workers.

* While 25% of Chicago's workers are Black, 42.2% of Chicago's public sector workers are Black.

* Median wages for African Americans in the public sector are about 39% higher than their overall levels. For example, Black men have a median wage of $22 in the public sector, compared to $14.56 in health care and social services and $12.55 in retail, the two next leading sectors employing Black workers.

“THAT REALITY is crucial in understanding the impact of attacks on the public sector,” Patel said. “The Midwest has been ground zero for such attacks, and Chicago is not exempt.”

GRASSROOTS COLLABORATIVE is a coalition of community and labor organizations. For information, call (312) 427-0510 or log on to

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