Book of the Month Archive

Disruption in Detroit: Autoworkers and the Elusive Postwar Boom (Dec 2018)

Daniel J. Clark

It is a bedrock American belief: the 1950s were a golden age of prosperity for autoworkers. Flush with high wages and enjoying the benefits of generous union contracts, these workers became the backbone of a thriving blue-collar middle class.

It is also a myth. Daniel J. Clark began by interviewing dozens of former autoworkers in the Detroit area and found a different story--one of economic insecurity marked by frequent layoffs, unrealized contract provisions, and indispensable second jobs. Disruption in Detroit is a vivid portrait of workers and an industry that experienced anything but stable prosperity. As Clark reveals, the myths--whether of rising incomes or hard-nosed union bargaining success--came later. In the 1950s, ordinary autoworkers, union leaders, and auto company executives recognized that although jobs in their industry paid high wages, they were far from steady and often impossible to find. [from publisher web site]

Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press. 243 pages
ISBN: 9780252042010
Call number: HD8039.A82 U632165

Leading with Dignity: How to Create a Culture that Brings out the Best in People (Nov 2018)

Donna Hicks

This landmark book from an expert in dignity studies explores the essential but under-recognized role of dignity as part of good leadership. Extending the reach of her award-winning book Dignity: Its Essential Role in Resolving Conflict, Donna Hicks now contributes a specific, practical guide to achieving a culture of dignity.

Most people know very little about dignity, the author has found, and when leaders fail to respect the dignity of others, conflict and distrust ensue. She highlights three components of leading with dignity: what one must know in order to honor dignity and avoid violating it; what one must do to lead with dignity; and how one can create a culture of dignity in any organization, whether corporate, religious, governmental, healthcare, or beyond. Brimming with key research findings, real-life case studies, and workable recommendations, this book fills an important gap in our understanding of how best to be together in a conflict-ridden world. [from publisher web site]

New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 214 pages
ISBN: 9780300229639
Call number: HD58.7 .H53 2018

Working for Respect: Community and Conflict at Walmart (Oct 2018)

Adam Reich and Peter Bearman

Walmart is the largest employer in the world. It encompasses nearly 1 percent of the entire American workforce—young adults, parents, formerly incarcerated people, retirees. Walmart also presents one possible future of work—Walmartism—in which the arbitrary authority of managers mixes with a hyperrationalized, centrally controlled bureaucracy in ways that curtail workers’ ability to control their working conditions and their lives.

In Working for Respect, Adam Reich and Peter Bearman examine how workers make sense of their jobs at places like Walmart in order to consider the nature of contemporary low-wage work, as well as the obstacles and opportunities such workplaces present as sites of struggle for social and economic justice. They describe the life experiences that lead workers to Walmart and analyze the dynamics of the shop floor. As a part of the project, Reich and Bearman matched student activists with a nascent association of current and former Walmart associates: the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart). They follow the efforts of this new partnership, considering the formation of collective identity and the relationship between social ties and social change. They show why traditional unions have been unable to organize service-sector workers in places like Walmart and offer provocative suggestions for new strategies and directions. Drawing on a wide array of methods, including participant-observation, oral history, big data, and the analysis of social networks, Working for Respect is a sophisticated reconsideration of the modern workplace that makes important contributions to debates on labor and inequality and the centrality of the experience of work in a fair economy. [from publisher web site]

New York, NY: Columbia University Press. 332 pages
ISBN: 9780231188425

Temp: How American Work, American Business, and the American Dream Became Temporary (Sep 2018)

Louis Hyman

The untold history of the surprising origins of the “gig economy” –how deliberate decisions made by consultants and CEOs in the 50s and 60s upended the stability of the workplace and the lives of millions of working men and women in postwar America.

Every working person in the United States asks the same question, how secure is my job? For a generation, roughly from 1945 to 1970, business and government leaders embraced a vision of an American workforce rooted in stability. But over the last fifty years, job security has cratered as the postwar institutions that insulated us from volatility–big unions, big corporations, powerful regulators–have been swept aside by a fervent belief in “the market.” Temp tracks the surprising transformation of an ethos which favored long-term investment in work (and workers) to one promoting short-term returns. A series of deliberate decisions preceded the digital revolution and upended the longstanding understanding of what a corporation, or a factory, or a shop, was meant to do.

Temp tells the story of the unmaking of American work through the experiences of those on the inside: consultants and executives, temps and office workers, line workers and migrant laborers. It begins in the sixties, with economists, consultants, business and policy leaders who began to shift the corporation from a provider of goods and services to one whose sole purpose was to maximize profit–an ideology that brought with it the risk-taking entrepreneur and the shareholder revolution and changed the very definition of a corporation.

With Temp, Hyman explains one of the nation’s most immediate crises. Uber are not the cause of insecurity and inequality in our country, and neither is the rest of the gig economy. The answer goes deeper than apps, further back than downsizing, and contests the most essential assumptions we have about how our businesses should work.

[from publisher web site]

New York, NY: Viking. 388 pages
ISBN: 9780735224070

The Rise of the Working-Class Shareholder: Labor's Last Best Weapon (Aug 2018)

David Webber

When Steven Burd, CEO of the supermarket chain Safeway, cut wages and benefits, starting a five-month strike by 59,000 unionized workers, he was confident he would win. But where traditional labor action failed, a novel approach was more successful. With the aid of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, a $300 billion pension fund, workers led a shareholder revolt that unseated three of Burd’s boardroom allies.

In The Rise of the Working-Class Shareholder: Labor’s Last Best Weapon, David Webber uses cases such as Safeway’s to shine a light on labor’s most potent remaining weapon: its multitrillion-dollar pension funds. Outmaneuvered at the bargaining table and under constant assault in Washington, state houses, and the courts, worker organizations are beginning to exercise muscle through markets. Shareholder activism has been used to divest from anti-labor companies, gun makers, and tobacco; diversify corporate boards; support Occupy Wall Street; force global warming onto the corporate agenda; create jobs; and challenge outlandish CEO pay. Webber argues that workers have found in labor’s capital a potent strategy against their exploiters. He explains the tactic’s surmountable difficulties even as he cautions that corporate interests are already working to deny labor’s access to this powerful and underused tool.

The Rise of the Working-Class Shareholder is a rare good-news story for American workers, an opportunity hiding in plain sight. Combining legal rigor with inspiring narratives of labor victory, Webber shows how workers can wield their own capital to reclaim their strength. [from publisher web site]

Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 331 pages
ISBN: 9780674972131
Call number: HD7105.35.U6 W43

Confronting Dystopia: The New Technological Revolution and the Future of Work (Jul 2018)

Eva Paus (Ed.)

In Confronting Dystopia, a distinguished group of scholars analyze the implications of the ongoing technological revolution for jobs, working conditions, and income. Focusing on the economic and political implications of AI, digital connectivity, and robotics for both the Global North and the Global South, they move beyond diagnostics to seek solutions that offer better lives for all. Their analyses of the challenges of technology are placed against the backdrop of three decades of rapid economic globalization. The two in tandem are producing the daunting challenges that analysts and policymakers must now confront.

The conjuncture of recent advances in AI, machine learning, and robotization portends a vast displacement of human labor, argues the editor, Eva Paus. As Confronting Dystopia shows, we are on the eve of—indeed we are already amid—a technological revolution that will impact profoundly the livelihoods of people everywhere in the world.

Across a broad and deep set of topics, the contributors explore whether the need for labor will inexorably shrink in the coming decades, how pressure on employment will impact human well-being, and what new institutional arrangements—a new social contract, for example, will be needed to sustain livelihoods. They evaluate such proposals as a basic income, universal social services, and investments that address key global challenges and create new jobs. [from publisher web site]

Ithaca, New York : ILR Press, an imprint of Cornell University Press. 296 pages
ISBN: 9781501719851
Call number: HD6331 .C687 2018

Unconventional Methodology in Organization and Management Research (Jun 2018)

Alan Bryman and David A. Buchanan (Eds.)

Most researchers in organization and management studies stick to two or three traditional research methods like surveys and interviews. Sticking with the familiar is seen as a safe bet, and innovation is discouraged by academic incentives and rewards. But research participants are now suffering from 'survey fatigue', and using the same old methods runs the risk of generating the same old findings.

This book describes twelve unconventional methodologies in organization and management research. These include unconventional research settings and data sources, unconventional research designs and data collection methods, unconventional analytic approaches, and designs and methods that exploit new technology developments. The aim is to encourage dialogue and experimentation with regard to the development of innovative, unconventional approaches to organization and management research. Several commentators have criticized the way in which research methods have become more formulaic, and have argued for greater diversity in research approaches. The methodological perspective that we adopt shapes our interpretation of the information that we gather. Different methods generate different kinds of information, leading to different ways of understanding the phenomena that we are investigating. Our methods influence our styles of theorizing, ways of thinking and reasoning, and forms of writing and reporting research.

This book will be of value to academic researchers in organization and management studies, Doctoral candidates, and Masters students on MBA and similar programs. [from publisher web site]

Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. 296 pages
ISBN: 9780198796985
Call number: HD30.4 .U53 2018

We are All Fast-Food Workers Now: The Global Uprising Against Poverty Wages (May 2018)

Annelise Orleck

Tracing a new labor movement sparked and sustained by low-wage workers from across the globe, “We Are All Fast-Food Workers Now” is an urgent, illuminating look at globalization as seen through the eyes of workers-activists: small farmers, fast-food servers, retail workers, hotel housekeepers, home-healthcare aides, airport workers, and adjunct professors who are fighting for respect, safety, and a living wage. With original photographs by Liz Cooke and drawing on interviews with activists in many US cities and countries around the world, including Bangladesh, Cambodia, Mexico, South Africa, and the Philippines, it features stories of resistance and rebellion, as well as reflections on hope and change as it rises from the bottom up. [from publisher web site]

Boston, MA: Beacon Press. 298 pages
ISBN: 9780807081778
Call number: HD4901 .O75 2018

Dying for a paycheck: How Modern Management Harms Employee Health and Company Performance—and What We Can Do About It (Apr 2018)

Jeffrey Pfeffer

Dying for a paycheck

In one survey, 61 percent of employees said that workplace stress had made them sick and 7 percent said they had actually been hospitalized. Job stress costs US employers more than $300 billion annually and may cause 120,000 excess deaths each year. In China, 1 million people a year may be dying from overwork.  People are literally dying for a paycheck. And it needs to stop.

In this timely, provocative book, Jeffrey Pfeffer contends that many modern management commonalities such as long work hours, work-family conflict, and economic insecurity are toxic to employees—hurting engagement, increasing turnover, and destroying people’s physical and emotional health—and also inimical to company performance.  He argues that human sustainability should be as important as environmental stewardship.

You don’t have to do a physically dangerous job to confront a health-destroying, possibly life-threatening, workplace. Just ask the manager in a senior finance role whose immense workload, once handled by several employees, required frequent all-nighters—leading to alcohol and drug addiction. Or the dedicated news media producer whose commitment to getting the story resulted in a sixty-pound weight gain thanks to having no down time to eat properly or exercise. Or the marketing professional prescribed antidepressants a week after joining her employer.

In Dying for a Paycheck, Jeffrey Pfeffer marshals a vast trove of evidence and numerous examples from all over the world to expose the infuriating truth about modern work life: even as organizations allow management practices that literally sicken and kill their employees, those policies do not enhance productivity or the bottom line, thereby creating a lose-lose situation.

Exploring a range of important topics including layoffs, health insurance, work-family conflict, work hours, job autonomy, and why people remain in toxic environments, Pfeffer offers guidance and practical solutions all of us—employees, employers, and the government—can use to enhance workplace wellbeing. We must wake up to the dangers and enormous costs of today’s workplace, Pfeffer argues. Dying for a Paycheck is a clarion call for a social movement focused on human sustainability. Pfeffer makes clear that the environment we work in is just as important as the one we live in, and with this urgent book, he opens our eyes and shows how we can make our workplaces healthier and better.

New York, NY: HarperBusiness. 258 pages
ISBN: 9780062800923

Automating inequality: how high-tech tools profile, police and punish the poor (Mar 2018)

Virginia Eubanks

The State of Indiana denies one million applications for healthcare, food stamps and cash benefits in three years—because a new computer system interprets any mistake as “failure to cooperate.” In Los Angeles, an algorithm calculates the comparative vulnerability of tens of thousands of homeless people in order to prioritize them for an inadequate pool of housing resources. In Pittsburgh, a child welfare agency uses a statistical model to try to predict which children might be future victims of abuse or neglect.

Since the dawn of the digital age, decision-making in finance, employment, politics, health and human services has undergone revolutionary change. Today, automated systems—rather than humans—control which neighborhoods get policed, which families attain needed resources, and who is investigated for fraud. While we all live under this new regime of data, the most invasive and punitive systems are aimed at the poor.

In Automating Inequality, Virginia Eubanks systematically investigates the impacts of data mining, policy algorithms, and predictive risk models on poor and working-class people in America. The book is full of heart-wrenching and eye-opening stories, from a woman in Indiana whose benefits are literally cut off as she lays dying to a family in Pennsylvania in daily fear of losing their daughter because they fit a certain statistical profile.

The U.S. has always used its most cutting-edge science and technology to contain, investigate, discipline and punish the destitute. Like the county poorhouse and scientific charity before them, digital tracking and automated decision-making hide poverty from the middle-class public and give the nation the ethical distance it needs to make inhumane choices: which families get food and which starve, who has housing and who remains homeless, and which families are broken up by the state. In the process, they weaken democracy and betray our most cherished national values. 

This deeply researched and passionate book could not be more timely. [from publisher web site]

New York, NY: St. Martin's Press. 260 pages
ISBN: 9781250074317
Call number: HC79.P6 E89 2018