Cover image for Low-wage America : how employers are reshaping opportunity in the workplace
Title:
Low-wage America : how employers are reshaping opportunity in the workplace
Author:
Appelbaum, Eileen, 1940-
Publication Information:
New York : Russell Sage, [2003]

©2003
Physical Description:
xii, 535 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Language:
English
Contents:
Low-wage America : an overview / Eileen Appelbaum, Annette Bernhardt, and Richard J. Murnane -- The coffee pot wars : unions and firm restructuring in the hotel industry / Annette Bernhardt, Laura Dresser, and Erin Hatton -- The effects of work restructuring on low-wage, low-skilled workers in U.S. hospitals / Eileen Appelbaum ... [et al.] -- Computer-based technological change and skill demands : reconciling the perspectives of economists and sociologists / David H. Autor, Frank Levy, and Richard J. Murnane -- "New technology" and its impact on the jobs of high school educated workers : a look deep inside three manufacturing industries / Ann P. Bartel, Casey Ichniowski, and Kathryn Shaw -- Plastic manufacturers : how competitive strategies and technology decision transformed jobs and increased pay disparity among rank-and-file workers / John W. Ballantine Jr. and Ronald F. Ferguson -- Too many cooks? : tracking internal labor market dynamics in food service with case studies and quantitative data / Julia Lane ... [et al.] -- How and when does management matter? : job quality and career opportunities for call center workers / Rosemary Batt, Larry W. Hunter, and Steffanie Wilk -- A temporary route to advancement? : the career opportunities for low-skilled workers in temporary employment / David Finegold, Alec Levenson, and Mark Van Buren -- The effects of temporary services and contracting out on low-skilled workers : evidence from auto suppliers, hospitals, and public schools / George A. Erickcek, Susan N. Houseman, and Arne L. Kalleberg -- The future of jobs in the hosiery industry / Rachel A. Willis, Rachel Connelly, and Deborah S. DeGraff -- When management strategies change : employee well-being at the auto supplier / Susan Helper and Morris M. Kleiner -- Managerial discretion, business strategy, and the quality of jobs : evidence from medium-sized manufacturing establishments in Central New York / Derek C. Jones, Takao Kato, and Adam Weinberg.
ISBN:
9780871540256
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

About 27.5 million Americans--nearly 24 percent of the labor force--earn less than $8.70 an hour, not enough to keep a family of four out of poverty, even working full-time year-round. Job ladders for these workers have been dismantled, limiting their ability to get ahead in today's labor market. Low-Wage America is the most extensive study to date of how the choices employers make in response to economic globalization, industry deregulation, and advances in information technology affect the lives of tens of millions of workers at the bottom of the wage distribution.

Based on data from hundreds of establishments in twenty-five industries--including manufacturing, telecommunications, hospitality, and health care--the case studies document how firms' responses to economic restructuring often results in harsh working conditions, reduced benefits, and fewer opportunities for advancement. For instance, increased pressure for profits in newly consolidated hotel chains has led to cost-cutting strategies such as requiring maids to increase the number of rooms they clean by 50 percent. Technological changes in the organization of call centers--the ultimate "disposable workplace"--have led to monitoring of operators' work performance, and eroded job ladders. Other chapters show how the temporary staffing industry has provided paths to better work for some, but to dead end jobs for many others; how new technology has reorganized work in the back offices of banks, raising skill requirements for workers; and how increased competition from abroad has forced U.S. manufacturers to cut costs by reducing wages and speeding production.

Although employers' responses to economic pressures have had a generally negative effect on frontline workers, some employers manage to resist this trend and still compete successfully. The benefits to workers of multi-employer training consortia and the continuing relevance of unions offer important clues about what public policy can do to support the job prospects of this vast, but largely overlooked segment of the American workforce. Low-Wage America challenges us to a national self-examination about the nature of low-wage work in this country and asks whether we are willing to tolerate the profound social and economic consequences entailed by these jobs.

A Volume in the Russell Sage Foundation Case Studies of Job Quality in Advanced Economies


Author Notes

EILEEN APPELBAUM is professor and director of the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University.

ANNETTE BERNHARDT is senior policy analyst at the Brennan Center for Justice, New York University School of Law.

RICHARD J. MURNANE is the Thompson Professor of Education and Society, Harvard Graduate School of Education and research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.


Reviews 1

Choice Review

Low-Wage America is a comprehensive case study analysis of the 42 percent of US workers who have never attended college, many of whom do not earn enough to keep themselves and their families above the poverty threshold. Based on empirical case studies of firms in 25 industries employing large numbers of low-wage workers, this volume addresses a number of factors--economic globalization, technology advances, industry deregulation, and changes in financial markets--that have created economic restructuring, often increasing the number of minimum wage jobs and resulting in harsh working conditions, reduced fringe benefits, and fewer opportunities for career advancement. Each of the 13 chapters is guided by a specific set of research questions. Data gathered via field interviews from a wide range of managers and employees are analyzed to determine how firms respond to the economic pressures identified. Thirty-eight researchers collaborated to produce this research volume, and the result is a significant empirical contribution to the issue of working poverty, which policy makers and senior executives in low-wage industries alike should find compelling reading. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduate through professional labor studies and sociology collections. T. Gutteridge University of Toledo