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Working in the Shadows: A Year of Doing the Jobs (Most) Americans Won't Do Hardcover – January 26, 2010
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As one coworker explained, These jobs make you old quick.â Back spasms occasionally keep Thompson in bed, where he suffers recurring nightmares involving iceberg lettuce and chicken carcasses. Combining personal narrative with investigative reporting, Thompson shines a bright light on the underside of the American economy, exposing harsh working conditions, union busting, and lax government enforcementwhile telling the stories of workers, undocumented immigrants, and desperate US citizens alike, forced to live with chronic pain in the pursuit of $8 an hour.
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I am happy about one thing. I know how little the food delivery people make so I always tip well beyond 20% when my food arrives on time. I say that because; the delivery person part of this book reveals how that job is especially brutal. The lettuce cutting part of the job is also a brutal way to make a living that left me speechless. I'm painfully short by USA standards at just 5 feet 8 inches but cutting lettuce would kill my back too. I LOVE ICEBERG LETTUCE, I order it every time I go out to eat which is fairly often. I'm an old man with a good job who hates to cook. I ordered my usual quarter lettuce wedge salad with blue cheese dressing recently looking at the lettuce I thought about this book fighting back tears.
This book will make you think and let you know just how blessed you are to not have to do these jobs not horrible because; they are without dignity. All honest work is dignified but, the cruelty in these jobs is driven by economics forces the employers can't control either. If the USA forced lettuce producers to raise prices to levels that support humane wages then the market would shift to the place where producers have the freedom to enact slave wage conditions. The problem with a global free economy is everyone must adopt the lowest common denominator of morality in their industry. The profits will go to the person who is the most ruthless, heartless, soulless. The profits will go to the person who is willing to drive his workers to the edge of insanity to get that 1 cent edge on a competitor.
The ultimate reason the conditions shared in such awesome detail exists is because; we are all guilty myself included in hunting for the best bargain price on almost everything we buy. Cheap lettuce, chicken for your salad costs people's backs, fingers, arms and sanity. Delivery in 30 minutes or its free costs people's bodies, aches, pains and horrendous risks taken. Cheap is not free. Cheap things are the most expensive items because., they don't cost the producer any money. That cheap lettuce, chicken or meal you got cost the workers and their families in healthcare dollars spent due to job related sickness, near accidents, ruined lives, pain, suffering and ultimately premature death.
If you read this book cover to cover with an open mind what I share here and more is what you will learn. Cheap things are not cheap they cost plenty. In the USA it is not you, me or the producer that pay the high price of cheap goods it is those who work like slaves for nothing wages that pay the ultimate price for your bargain priced chicken, lettuce or meal. I would have taken a star off for the moral sermon at the end of the book but, this guy suffered for this work, he is entitled to a good vent. I just read the book and it got me all worked up which is why I wrote this. My eyes are painfully open thanks to Working In The Shadows!
I own two businesses, and except for entry level, I pay above minimum, offer advancement, and health benefits. Tough to do in this economy, but I feel it is good business to take care of my associate family. It also yields a more satisfied and loyal workforce.
The weakest parts of the book are some of his conclusions. Unionizing is going to be tough, and may actually hurt in some ways. The author is spot on, however, in stating that we need comprehensive immigration reform. Our economy needs these workers, and they add much to our communities. As he points out in Alabama, they are often an unseen part of the community, and contribute to the overall economy.
Overall, I recommend this book. I think you will find it interesting.