Posted by: kokoro | 13th Apr, 2009

Greenhouse, The Big Squeeze Chapters 1-9

So far, Greenhouse’s book has been majorly depressing. It doesn’t really give me much hope for the future, specifically my future in the workforce. Though the type of work has changed in America in our postindustrial economy, worker exploitation goes on just the same as it always has, as well as in new ways. At the very least, this book proves that labor unions are not obsolete, as some critics have said. If anything, workers more than ever need to have their interests looked after.

I think Greenhouse’s book has been the easiest of our class books to read because he interweaves so many personal stories into his overview of the state of American labor. In some ways, those stories also make it the hardest book to read. While the other books we’ve read have had moments that get me riled up enough to use my barn voice (thank you 30 Rock!), I think this book provokes a larger emotional reaction simply because these are current issues.

These are also issues that I can somewhat relate too. I lived in the same apartment my whole life, in a relatively low-income neighborhood with my single mother. We pretty much live paycheck to paycheck, with no yearly vacations or vacation homes. Our special trips usually consist of staying with family for a few days. It’s always been a treat to eat out at a fancy place, not some kind of weekly tradition, and I’ve never had any music/dance/whatever lessons outside of school. The company branch where my mom worked closed down a few years ago, leaving her unemployed for a year, not to mention increasingly depressed, until she found a new job that leaves her in traffic for hours every day and every night. Of course, the majority of Americans live this way, and for many people, much worse.

Fortunately, chapter nine is a little more cheery. It’s good to know that there are some companies out there that take steps to look out for their workers, even if these companies are relatively small in number.

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