In this Book

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.

Table of Contents

  1. Title Page
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  1. Copyright
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  1. Contents
  2. pp. v-vii
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  1. Contributors
  2. pp. ix-xii
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  1. Acknowledgments
  2. p. xiii
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  1. CHAPTER 1: Low-Wage America: An Overview
  2. pp. 1-29
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  1. PART I: Services: Where the Jobs Are
  1. CHAPTER 2: The Coffee Pot Wars: Unions and Firm Restructuring in the Hotel Industry
  2. pp. 33-76
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  1. CHAPTER 3: The Effects of Work Restructuring on Low-Wage, Low-Skilled Workers in U.S. Hospitals
  2. pp. 77-117
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  1. PART II: Technology: Fewer Better Jobs?
  1. CHAPTER 4: Computer-Based Technological Change and Skill Demands: Reconciling the Perspectives of Economists and Sociologists
  2. pp. 121-154
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  1. CHAPTER 5: “New Technology” and Its Impact on the Jobs of High School Educated Workers: A Look Deep Inside Three Manufacturing Industries
  2. pp. 155-194
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  1. PART III: Career Ladders: The Past or the Future?
  1. CHAPTER 7: Too Many Cooks? Tracking Internal Labor Market Dynamics in Food Service with Case Studies and Quantitative Data
  2. pp. 229-269
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  1. CHAPTER 8: How and When Does Management Matter? Job Quality and Career Opportunities for Call Center Workers
  2. pp. 270-313
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  1. PART IV: Temps: Part of the Solution or Part of the Problem?
  1. CHAPTER 9: A Temporary Route to Advancement? The Career Opportunities for Low-Skilled Workers in Temporary Employment
  2. pp. 317-367
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  1. CHAPTER 10: The Effects of Temporary Services and Contracting Out on Low-Skilled Workers: Evidence from Auto Suppliers, Hospitals, and Public Schools
  2. pp. 368-403
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  1. PART V: Globalization: Always a Job Killer?
  1. CHAPTER 11: The Future of Jobs in the Hosiery Industry
  2. pp. 407-445
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  1. CHAPTER 12: When Management Strategies Change: Employee Well-Being at an Auto Supplier
  2. pp. 446-478
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  1. CHAPTER 13: Managerial Discretion, Business Strategy, and the Quality of Jobs: Evidence from Medium-Sized Manufacturing Establishments in Central New York
  2. pp. 479-525
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  1. Index
  2. pp. 527-535
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Additional Information

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