Adam Steltzner

Jennifer Ito and Marqueece Harris-Dawson: A Shifting Los Angeles

Jennifer Ito: Los Angeles has seen, has undergone dramatic demographic transformation particularly between the 70s and currently. We saw a lot of that growth happen in the 1980s and particularly as we received a lot of communities from Central America and other countries. What's interesting now is that particularly from the Latino communities and Latino immigrants, what we're seeing is a much more integrated and settled population, but now we're receiving a lot of immigrants from other parts particularly from Asia. So I think part, we experienced a lot of growth in the 1980s, we are living with some of the legacies of some of that and issues around immigration, but also how we integrate some of these new communities into our neighborhoods, into the workplace, into society.

Val Zavala: And Marqueece how about some of the challenges in your district because it's not just demographics.

Marqueece Harris-Dawson In my district certainly there has been some demographic shift, and that settled out in the last few years, but the biggest shift has not been demographics, it’s been wages. So in the 1970s and 1980s people were employed with union jobs. Now people are employed, they work just as much, their jobs are not union and the wages are very different and there's nothing intrinsically different about the work that they were doing then vs the work they are doing now. It's that that a few human beings, a very small set of them have made decisions about what wages are going to be. Generally, the pressure has been downward, and you get the resulting inequality; the people making the decisions, the people in charge of setting the wages, doing much better, the people working every day for a living doing much worse.

Val Zavala: So there seems to be some discretion in the people who as you said are making those decisions about wages, are they making the decisions based on what? Pure economics?  

Marqueece Harris-Dawson: Well I think it's a human decision right, so there’s a variety of factors that go into any human decision, what we see is a trend towards lower wages. So Jennifer just pointed out people in the middle and at the bottom have seen their wages go down by 25 percent. Wages are controlled by employers for the most part, except when there's a union then you have an organized interests group to intervene on your behalf as a worker, you don’t have that it's purely the decision of the owners and of the managers and you see what we've gotten.

Jennifer Ito, Research Director at USC’s Program for Environmental and Regional Equity explains demographic changes in Los Los Angeles. Marqueece Harris Dawson, Councilmember to L.A.’s 8th District, explains that biggest shift in his district has not been in demographics, but a change in wages and the loss of union jobs. 

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