Betrayal of Work: How Low-Wage Jobs Fail 35 Million Americans

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Beth Shulman spent several years traveling across the country talking to those living on low wages. In The Betrayal of Work, she provides the fullest portrait of America's working poor, dispelling a number of myths along the way; that most low-wage workers are teenagers, immigrants, or high-school dropouts; that being in low-wage employment is a stepping stone to a better position; that making bad jobs into good jobs requires insurmountably difficult reforms; that low-wage work is always low-skilled. With a ...
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Overview

Beth Shulman spent several years traveling across the country talking to those living on low wages. In The Betrayal of Work, she provides the fullest portrait of America's working poor, dispelling a number of myths along the way; that most low-wage workers are teenagers, immigrants, or high-school dropouts; that being in low-wage employment is a stepping stone to a better position; that making bad jobs into good jobs requires insurmountably difficult reforms; that low-wage work is always low-skilled. With a thorough analysis of how we arrived at this point, Shulman offers a far-reaching argument about what we must do to restore fairness to the American economic order.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
One out of four U.S. workers earns less than $8.70 an hour. So begins Shulman's fact-filled look at the lives of America's working poor, and their struggles to survive without adequate health benefits, child care and job security. A former v-p of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union in Washington, D.C., Shulman doesn't hide the fact that she is addressing the same issues as Barbara Ehrenreich did in Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, the bestselling 2001 book based on the author's own experiences in the low-wage workforce. But Shulman's book lacks the verve and wow factor of Nickel and Dimed, despite her efforts to include personal stories of poultry processors, janitors, child-care workers and others who earn poverty-level wages. The anecdotes often come across as overly broad and pandering. ("It can get very busy at the pharmacy counter, especially during flu season," she writes about the life of a pharmacy technical assistant.) Even the more compelling stories lose impact because of their failure to present more than a superficial point of view of the employers. The book is at its strongest when citing labor statistics and challenging long-held beliefs that low-wage work is synonymous with a lack of skills or that most low-wage employees will graduate into better positions. Still, many of the examples (working conditions are unsafe; employers of immigrants exploit wage laws) will come as no surprise to anyone who regularly picks up a newspaper. The book is useful as a reference tool for policy wonks and conscientious employers, but anyone looking for further insight into the reality and pervasiveness of the working poor will probably be disappointed. (Sept. 1) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565847330
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 9/2/2003
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 255
  • Product dimensions: 5.56 (w) x 7.74 (h) x 1.05 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
Ch. 1 Three Workers 15
Ch. 2 Piling On: Why It's About More Than Money 25
Ch. 3 In the Heart of Our Economy and Our Lives 45
Ch. 4 The Demography of a Caste 69
Ch. 5 How Low-Wage Jobs Damage Us All 81
Ch. 6 An Apology for Indifference 101
Ch. 7 A Question of Power 117
Ch. 8 A Compact with Working Americans 149
Notes 185
Index 241
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2004

    No acknowledgement of trade offs

    Ms. Shulman does a fair job of identifying black marks in the U.S. labor market although she generalizes too much. What is a low wage for a head of household in Manhattan may be a decent wage for a part-timer or resident of a low cost rural area. She recommends many new labor regulations but ignores the loss of employment and higher prices this would cause. There may be case that, on balance, the new regulations are justified but Ms. Shulman doesn't even deal with the downside and thus her argument becomes nothing more than a left-wing polemic.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2003

    Read the other reviews

    Don't just use the PUblishers Weekly review. Look at Barbara Ehrenreich's quote on the front cover in which she says she wished that she had written it; see the current Newsweek for Anna Quindlen's review in which she says the book should be read by every member of Congress and all the presidential candidates; see the USA Today and Business Week reviews; and read the interview with Beth Shulman in Fortune magazine.

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