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This excellent book examines the phenomenon of job insecurity in America. Author and newspaper reporter Louis Uchitelle traces the development and decline of the American expectation of stable, remunerative, virtually lifetime employment. Republicans may have taken the boldest steps in rolling back the expectation of job security (Ronald Reagan’s firing of the air traffic controllers spoke eloquently for the new order), but they did not do so alone or unopposed. Democratic presidents and politicians did not make preventing layoffs a major campaign issue or administrative priority. Uchitelle writes smoothly and evocatively, particularly about the individual experiences of laid-off workers for whom the surviving avenues of American opportunity were dead ends. getAbstract recommends this book to anyone who wants to know what killed the historic American trust between workers and employers, and how to staunch the bleeding caused by layoffs.


From Security to Insecurity

Layoffs have become such a large part of American economic life that it is hard to recall when they were rare. During most of the twentieth century, job stability was the norm. Peter F. Drucker’s 1950s classic, The Practice of Management, outlined a trade-off: management built a dedicated workforce by being loyal to its workers. He saw job stability as essential to corporate success. But 40 years later, Drucker is writing about "knowledge workers" adrift in an unstable economy where no one expects a permanent job. They rent out their intellects for short-term assignments, moving along as their needs - and their employers’ needs - change.

The shift from enjoying stable, lifelong employment to facing ongoing job insecurity has taken a severe, usually uncalculated toll on the American worker’s economic and psychological well-being. Laid-off people rarely secure employment that pays as well as the jobs they lost. Although the layoffs usually are not their fault, they still suffer severe psychological and emotional pain. When employers tell them that the work they took seriously and did well for many years is of no consequence, is unnecessary...

About the Author

Louis Uchitelle has covered economics for The New York Times since 1987, focusing on labor and business issues. He shared a major award for its 1996 series "The Downsizing of America." He also taught journalism at Columbia University’s School of General Studies.

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