The Betrayal Of Work
"But when millions of Americans cannot properly feed, clothe,
shelter, and provide their children with the basic amenities of a
healthy childhood, it is not merely the problem of the individual.
When more than forty million Americans lack health insurance, it is
not just an individual problem. At a time of historically low
unemployment, the demand for charitable services increased
dramatically--not decreased. The U.S. Conference of Mayors found that
emergency food assistance alone grew 18 percent between 1998 and 2000,
fueled by working people. This is not a situation in which a few
people cannot take care of themselves. It is a problem with the
In 2005 when Beth Shulman's The Betrayal Of Work: How Low-Wage
Jobs Fail 30 Million Americans came out, forces beyond individual
control were eliminating jobs that were adequate to provide the basic
necessities for laborers and families. The displaced workers were
thrown into the competition for work that not only pays less, but
demands more, is often hazardous, and dooms the next generation to the
same dismal quality of existence. Sending factories with their decent
paying jobs to third world nations is one example of these forces. (I
also believe that President Clinton's 1996 ending welfare as we know
it, with its emphasis on getting recipients off the rolls and into
jobs WHETHER OR NOT THE AVAILABLE JOBS COULD LIFT FAMILIES OUT OF
POVERTY AND PRECARIOUSNESS added to this obscenely abusive situation.)
Betrayal is a perfect word to sum up the situation.
So why should we be reading a book that is eleven years old? I
think you know the answer. In the intervening time things have gotten
much worse. More of our fellow citizens than ever before are not only
doomed, but demonized. Elected officials, such as a certain Maine
governor, sell a caricature of anyone needing help as the undeserving
gaming the system--this at a time when increasing numbers of our
fellow Americans are experiencing the level of poverty usually
associated with third world countries and many homeless families
include at least one worker.
The Betrayal Of Work is a great introduction to this whole
mess. It eloquently describes the perilous conditions under which a
new permanent (and probably generationally permanent) caste of
laborers (and their families) struggles to survive. It introduces
readers to dilligent work betrayed people left way behind. It
beautifully busts the myths proponants of the status quo keep serving
up: the Horatio Alger myth of upward mobility; the idea that all these
people need is skills training; the inevitability of the race to the
bottom under globalization; and the concept that volunteerism and
charity can take the place of policy and safety nets.
Shulman also reminds us that fighting to change things is in our
own self interest. The poultry processors, whose workplaces could
inspire a modern day Dante, prepare the meats we serve our families.
Salmonella anyone? The cooks and waitresses who feed us in
restaurants must work when sick. You want that with a side of
influenza? The high turnover in people who work with children in day
care and the medically fragile in nursing homes does not provide for
essential continuity of care.
Shulman also considers working to create a workplace of
nonbetraying jobs to be a moral imperative, a defining issue for the
times we live in:
"...Whether we will be a nation of opportunity and justice for
all or one in which only the few prosper at the expense of millions of
workers and their families is ultimately up to us. Many argue that
these improvements will cost too much. But the cost of doing nothing
is even greater. It denies workers the essentials of a decent life
and subjects their children to such deprivations that they have little
chance of success. It hurts our economy, it hurts our democracy, and
it hurts our health as a nation if we ignore those who are working
hard but getting shortchanged. It prevents those American workers
from becoming real stakeholders in their communities. And to tolerate
this injustice demeans us as people."
On a personal note, living in a nation where T***p will become
president in January terrifies me. Women, blacks, Latinos,
immigrants, Muslims, and the LGBTQ community will be endangered.
People are telling us to put divisions aside to unite behind him. I'm
sure that's what they told the Germans when you-know-who came into
A great big shout out goes out to all who will champion the many who
can not feel safe in T***p's America.
Sent from my iPod