Where have all the jobs gone Hyman explains it clearly in this interesting but sometimes dry fusion of economic and social history I learned of this book from a NPR broadcast while driving through Arizona The subject matter and the author s command of it made me wanting to know Basically the social experiment of the New Deal and the collaborative social contract of the 1950 s between corporations industries and labor fell victim to greed No longer was stability and a long term view the goal It was replaced by risk and a short term goal of the next financial quarter and the ascendancy of the shareholders Employees were not to be viewed as assets but costs unlike Japan.
At the same time the consultancy craze took hold to advise managers and executives of how to maximize their growth and profits Armies of accountants and consultants besieged Fortune 500 companies to assist them Consultants were like crack cocaine as customer demand was insatiable for their advice It soon became apparent that no company could survive without them To cut costs labor was the target More and employees were let go with increased automation and efficiency of scale More and employees were converted to temps or contractors to avoid paying benefits This happened first with blue collar jobs than decades later with white college jobs Some corporations would have people working alongside each other together doing the same job but with very different pay and benefits They would even have different colored name tags so they could distinguish themselves from each other Talk about a modern caste system.
Hyman has chapters on the exploitation of women, minorities to include immigration and the Bracero program Chapters on the electronics industry and the new digital world of Uber and Etsy In the last chapter he offers paths for the future and opines that the digital world offers us a return to determining our own destiny much like the farmers of the agrarian age who worked for themselves.
Lots of interesting quotes See below.
Page 3But in the collapse of 2008, we all suddenly became aware that while the economy had grown for forty years, the 10 percent at the top received 87 percent of all that growth compared with 29 percent from 1933 to 1973 The much maligned 1 percent alone received 56 percent of all growth from 1975 to 2006.
Page 13 act to once again make capitalism work for us, not work us over.
Page 170Future Shock was not just another goofy titled book about a utopia or dystopia to come, it was the playbook for the gig economy a playbook implemented by consultants.
Page 271 of AppleEven when innovation eventually returned, the work did not.
The Untold History Of The Surprising Origins Of The Gig Economy How Deliberate Decisions Made By Consultants And CEOs In The S And S Upended The Stability Of The Workplace And The Lives Of Millions Of Working Men And Women In Postwar AmericaEvery Working Person In The United States Asks The Same Question, How Secure Is My JobFor A Generation, Roughly From To , Business And Government Leaders Embraced A Vision Of An American Workforce Rooted In Stability But Over The Last Fifty Years, Job Security Has Cratered As The Postwar Institutions That Insulated Us From Volatility Big Unions, Big Corporations, Powerful Regulators Have Been Swept Aside By A Fervent Belief In The Market Temp Tracks The Surprising Transformation Of An Ethos Which Favored Long Term Investment In Work And Workers To One Promoting Short Term Returns A Series Of Deliberate Decisions Preceded The Digital Revolution And Upended The Longstanding Understanding Of What A Corporation, Or A Factory, Or A Shop, Was Meant To Do Temp Tells The Story Of The Unmaking Of American Work Through The Experiences Of Those On The Inside Consultants And Executives, Temps And Office Workers, Line Workers And Migrant Laborers It Begins In The Sixties, With Economists, Consultants, Business And Policy Leaders Who Began To Shift The Corporation From A Provider Of Goods And Services To One Whose Sole Purpose Was To Maximize Profit An Ideology That Brought With It The Risk Taking Entrepreneur And The Shareholder Revolution And Changed The Very Definition Of A CorporationWith Temp, Hyman Explains One Of The Nation S Most Immediate Crises Uber Are Not The Cause Of Insecurity And Inequality In Our Country, And Neither Is The Rest Of The Gig Economy The Answer Goes Deeper Than Apps, Further Back Than Downsizing, And Contests The Most Essential Assumptions We Have About How Our Businesses Should Work Every so often I run into an author who strings together a bunch of missing pieces that connect a whole bunch of stuff I ve been obsessing about for years and Temp is totally one of those books.
By putting the postwar, risk adverse totalitarian union tolerating corporation in context and exploring the roots of the efforts to dismantle it in the wake of the demise of conglomerates in the late 60s 70s, Hyman made a lot of dynamics of the gig economy obvious The biggest of them is the rhetoric of, Flexible jobs for people who don t want to work full time being a hook to justify not paying benefits to as much of the workforce as they can manage.
And then he goes and does something crazy He offers possible solutions all built around the notion the postwar labor consensus wasn t inevitable, but the result of decades of labor struggle paying off for white men who created a closed system while white women, people of color, and migrant labor were used to shore up the less permanent jobs.
While optimistic I think his suggestions deserve attention There wasn t some magic force that created the postwar economy, people did They fought for it We can too.
Corporate America certainly is.
A valuable if frustrating and often dull entry into the study of our fresh hell Hyman is a credulous witness to the seemingly unstoppable tide of labor history, eager to reprint the front facing pronouncements of industry pioneers Manpower and McKinsey Importantly, he than proves his central point, that workplace insecurity is not a new development of the gig economy, but an inevitable outcome of the last 50 years of corporate capitalism.
Hyman s pollyanna denouement is telling though, because for all of his gestures towards the exclusionary nature of America s once powerful labor unions all too briefly mentioning the labor struggles of African Americans, women and undocumented immigrants , he presents the logical outcomes of current trends as a new era of potential Organizing in this new atomized space, in a pitched battle with every other avatar, becomes merely a question of perspective and technological liberation Which direction will we choose read this with William Gibson s obnoxious book The Peripheral while sucking on a fentanyl lollipop.
Don t talk to me about the future of work until you study the history of labor This is an exemplary history, complete with copious footnotes which I am a sucker for It follows the rise of temporary labor day laborers, office temps, shift workers, consultants, etc in the US closely tracking the rise of Manpower a Temp agency and McKinsey a consultancy Hyman does a great job of weaving in issues of gender, race, and citizenship, with the conventional class lens of labor history For example, Hyman highlights the predominance of immigrant hispanic women in manufacturing electronics often in their own kitchens and with the help of their family members of all ages and the lack of anti Uber like 86% men sentiment against Etsy 87% women , to show that the popular conception is that good, steady jobs are only owed to men and that temporary labor became acceptable because of our ideas about gender.
This book gave me a solid grounding to parse a lot of our current debates about the gig economy , automation, job growth, and modern dissatisfaction with work, along with many suggestions for further reading thanks footnotes I learned a lot about subjects I didn t expect to learn about at all I d recommend this book to everyone, although parts of the book can be a bit of a slog with too much detail on some points Thanks to Anne Helen Petersen on Twitter for the rec it s part of her reading list for her upcoming book on burnout.
The author gets a bit lost in this book on the mechanics of economic history compared to his other work The dichotomous focus on basically two major firms gets tiresome after awhile, especially when the current Temp economy is pushed to just the last few chapters.
A really comprehensive picture of how we got where we are with the gig economy, all of the ways that it has failed the individual to the benefit of the corporation and what a path forward could look like Have been recommending to everyone.
Temp is the latest book about the changes in the American economy that have led to the strong growth in temporary or contingent jobs, often without benefits and only at a part time status while traditional jobs and traditional and stable workplaces have seemed to atrophy and a stagnation has come to workers For the lower 90% of the workforce, real wages have stagnated for decades Any recent changes have come with a recognition that the nature of work and the types of jobs available to most are very different from what they were from the end of WW2 until the 1960s.
This is not the first book to address this set of economic developments There has been a continuous stream of books, almost entirely negative and worrisome in tone since the Great Recession Before that, there were the books prompted by the dot.
com crash of 2001 Before that, there were the books about mergers, acquisitions, downsizing, hostile takeovers, outsourcing, offshoring, While the tone of the literature has been largely negative, there have been exceptions Workers can now be their own bosses, pack their own parachutes, not be tied to the harsh routine of factory work and overtime, etc For employers, moving to workforce planning can smooth out business risks and protect you valued workforce and so it goes Even the gig economy provides people with few other choices the chance to maintain their incomes and lifestyles Let s say I had low expectations for this book What could there possibly be to say that has not been already said It turns out that this book is fairly good for about the first half to two thirds After that, familiar territory is gone over, although without wasting time on the familiar villains of ride share firms.
Louis Hyman is a labor historian at Cornell who also knows how to write What makes this book special is that he focuses on a deeper history of the sources of Temp work than most books do, by providing a joint biography of two key players Manpower and McKinsey Manpower pioneered the assemblage and deployment of temporary workers who could fill the needs of major firms without being subject to conventional labor laws and benefit obligations McKinsey developed the business of high end strategic consulting, thus providing a model for high end and highly paid Temp workers as well as developing and deploying the strategies used by industrial firms to reorganize their workers around a greater use of temporary labor on a permanent basis Yes, long before Uber and Lyft, these were the two central actors whose success changed the nature of work in America.
Hyman also does a good job in identifying the nature of changes in American work His point, which is not without controversy, is that the post WW2 US economy of stable dominant oligopolistic firms that provided well compensated and stable career for their workers was itself an anomaly that was bound to change for the worse once Europe and Asia China and Japan recovered and low energy prices went away in the 1970s Established US employers were going to run aground on their own, without the aid of Manpower and McKinsey, who worked to help firms adjust This is not the fault of immediate villains or politicians The system that evolved under Roosevelt in response to the Great Depression and WW2 was a fortunate but transitory solution to the last set of major economic crises of the 1930s and 1940s The threats from global competition had not gone away Anchoring the growth of the Temp economy in a longer history helps to understand the nature of the problems today and keeps the reader from falling for the latest business trade book to come along Unfortunately, that also implies that there are few easy fixes Hyman tries to suggest some and they are well intended, but come across as redefining the problem in the form of a solution.
This is a complex book with a lot that is going on Hyman has some trouble transitioning to the post 2008 crisis world and he gives too much attention in my opinion to the evolution of fad business themes around the new workforce While few of these ideas lack any merit, it is also helpful to know that they are often consultant pitches than reasonable proposals.
But I am nitpicking here The book is well done and worth reading Careful readers can sort out the wheat and the chaff and benefit from doing so I recommend the book.