Posted by: kokoro | 16th Apr, 2009

Greenhouse, Chapters 10-16

The rest of Greenhouse’s book still hasn’t done anything to make me feel better about my future prospects, or my mother’s future prospects for that matter.

American workers continue to face many of the same problems. Technological advances continue to threaten jobs, while making new ones. Working conditions remain terrible in many places, with issues ranging from lack of safety to sexual harassment. Immigrants taking jobs from American-born workers is also a continuing problem. Companies still do their best to destroy or keep unions from forming with intimidation and other means.

There are also new problems that the country’s workers face. Americans are becoming increasingly overworked, all the while their wages have not grown to match their productivity. Temp agencies, contracting, and downsizing all threaten worker’s positions and help to make them open to exploitation. Technology can also be used in new ways to alter worker’s records, like their hours. Globalization threatens American jobs, and illegal immigration lowers the bar for all workers because illegal immigrants allow employers to get away with terrible exploitation because they can’t speak up against it. Young people are increasingly falling into debt, and college is becoming more expensive as financial assistance remains mostly stagnant. A college education isn’t even necessarily a sure way to a good job anymore either. Retirement is also becoming a figment of the imagination. While employers continue to challenge unions, the way that they do so has become increasingly insidious. The outright violence that was once used may be preferable to the backhand, bureaucratic means they use now. At least direct violence was a sure way to win the sympathy of the public, but then, employers have learned some things since then.

So, to recap, American labor basically faces all the old problems that it’s always faced, while at the same time facing a plethora of new problems. It makes you wonder whether we can fix any new problems if we can’t even fix the old ones. However, things have improved for the American worker before. With revitalization, innovation, and organization, hopefully the labor movement can improve things in the future. But before anything can be improved, we first need to figure out how American labor has reached this low point.

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