past event
Employment and Jobs

Shop ‘til Who Drops? Exploring Retail Jobs this Holiday Season

Audio (MP3)

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See key moments from the discussion below. To view a video in full screen, play the video and click on the full-screen option at the bottom right.

Multiple dimensions to worker scheduling
Policy ideas on better worker scheduling
Macy’s worker friendly scheduling policies

See more video highlights from the discussion.


About the Event

The holidays are a critical time for retail companies and workers. The National Retail Federation anticipates that holiday sales this year will make up approximately 19 percent of the retail industry’s annual sales of $3.2 trillion. Holiday spending also impacts the paychecks, schedules, and work-life balance of the 15 million retail workers in the United States, who make up more than 10 percent of total US employment. For these workers, the holidays often amplify year-round job stress they already face, including stress caused by unpredictable and changing work schedules, on-call shifts that may not materialize, and unexpected early dismissals. Unstable schedules — combined with other common workplace conditions like lack of paid leave, low wages, and little investment in workforce training — reduce employee engagement and contribute to high turnover and job instability. Recent studies also find that this type of unstable employment has negative implications for workers’ health — and for health care costs — and for the well-being of workers’ children. Recently, however, more retailers have begun looking at how business models could include better jobs for retail workers. We invite you to take time out of your busy holiday season to learn more about retail workers’ jobs and schedules, better business models, policy remedies, and ideas for jobs that will make happy holidays for everyone.


Featured speakers

Susan J. Lambert, Associate Professor, School of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago
Susan Lambert is an Associate Professor in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. She is a leading expert on employer practices and employment conditions in low-level hourly jobs and how employers’ scheduling practices matter for worker well-being and family economic security. The sites for Susan’s research span many industries, including retail, hospitality, financial services, transportation, and manufacturing, and both publicly-held and family-owned companies. Her research includes comparative organizational case-studies, randomized workplace experiments, and analyses of national data. Susan received a BA summa cum laude in Psychology from Eastern Michigan University, a MSW (Social Program Evaluation) and a PhD in Social Work and Social Science (Organizational Psychology) from the University of Michigan.

William Tompkins, Senior Vice President for Human Resources, Macy’s Inc.
William Tompkins is the senior vice president for Human Resources & Total Rewards at Macy’s Inc., where he leads human resources for the headquarters and shared services organizations, employee and labor relations, Human Resources Technology, and Compensation and Benefits. Previously, he worked at The Coca-Cola Company and was responsible for its Total Rewards strategies including the design and governance of the company’s global compensation, benefits, and global mobility programs to drive the long-term growth of the organization. William has held similar leadership positions at Gap Inc., American Express, Citigroup and Hitachi. He is an active member of the Conference Board’s Council on Compensation. He received his BA from Queens College in Psychology.

Jodie Levin-Epstein, Deputy Director, CLASP
Jodie Levin-Epstein is CLASP’s deputy director. She plays a key role in national advocacy that has led to the re-emergence of poverty in the public discourse. Jodie also focuses on the effect of workforce policies, such as workplace flexibility and paid leave, on low-income people. She is working to mobilize businesses to support new labor standards. She has published numerous publications in this area, including Getting Punched: The Job and Family Clock. Jodie created and continues to manage and host CLASP’s widely acclaimed national audio conferences on low-income issues. She is a graduate of Grinnell College from which she received an honorary doctorate of laws.



Teresa Tritch, Editorial Board Member, New York Times
Teresa Tritch serves on the editorial board of the New York Times, focusing on economic issues and tax policy. Before joining the editorial board in 2004, Teresa spent 12 years at Money magazine, as a staff writer, Washington, D.C., bureau chief and senior editor, covering politics, finance and taxes. She has also been a contributing editor for the Stanford Social Innovation Review, covering nonprofits, and for the Gallup Management Journal, covering workplace issues. Teresa, a Los Angeles native, holds a BA in German from UCLA and an MS in Journalism from Columbia University. In 2000, she was a Knight-Bagehot fellow in Business and Economics Journalism at Columbia.


Related resources

Fact Sheet on Retail Workforce, Employment and Job Quality

Giving Retail Workers the Gift of Standards for Job Schedules, by Jodie Levin-Epstein in The Aspen Journal of Ideas

Listen Longer: Societal Reflection, By Aspen Institute Staff in The Aspen Idea Blog

“Job Schedules & Public Policy in 2015 and 2016” (October 2015)

“Job Schedules: The Facts Conference Call” (September 17, 2014)

CLASP’s National Repository on Job Scheduling


This event is part of the Working in America series, an ongoing discussion series hosted by the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program that highlights an array of critical issues affecting low- and moderate-income workers in the United States and ideas for improving and expanding economic opportunities for working people. For more information, visit




Join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #talkgoodjobs.

Event information
Tue Dec 1, 2015
12:00pm - 1:30pm GMT+0000
Aspen Institute
One Dupont Circle, NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20036, United States