What Workers Say: Decades of Struggle and How to Make Real Opportunity Now (Paperback)
What have jobs really been like for the past 40 years and what do the workers themselves say about them? In What Workers Say, Roberta Iversen shows that for employees in labor market industries—like manufacturing, construction, printing—as well as those in service-producing jobs, like clerical work, healthcare, food service, retail, and automotive—jobs are often discriminatory, are sometimes dangerous and exploitive, and seldom utilize people’s full range of capabilities. Most importantly, they fail to provide any real opportunity for advancement.
What Workers Say takes its cue from Studs Terkel’s Working, as Iversen interviewed more than 1,200 workers to present stories about their labor market jobs since 1980. She puts a human face on the experiences of a broad range of workers indicating what their jobs were and are truly like. Iversen reveals how transformations in the political economy of waged work have shrunk or eliminated opportunity for workers, families, communities, and productivity. What Workers Say also offers an innovative proposal for compensated civil labor that could enable workers, their communities, labor market organizations, and the national infrastructure to actually flourish.
Roberta Rehner Iversen is an Associate Professor in the School of Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also a Faculty Associate in Penn’s Institute for Urban Research. She is the coauthor of Jobs Aren't Enough: Toward a New Economic Mobility for Low-Income Families (Temple).
"Iversen probes the nature of working- and middle-class jobs via interviews with workers from a variety of different social, economic, and ethnic backgrounds.... This book will appeal to sociologists, social policy researchers, and anyone interested in how the predicaments of American workers may actually contain answers to how to navigate the uncertain waters of a rapidly evolving workplace. A timely and well-researched study."—Kirkus Reviews
"[T]he book makes for engaging and enlightening reading, providing a sensitive, and often ennobling view of the contemporary economy from the ground up. Studs Terkel would have been pleased."—Social Forces