Monday, July 31, 2006

Book Review: The Betrayal of Work

The Betrayal of Work by Beth Shulman

A great book with numerous statistics on the 30+ million people who are living on minimum wage. Shulman states, "It is a story about workers who are the embodiment of the work ethic. It is about workers who perform tasks essential to Americans' lives, yet seem hidden from their view. It is about workers who pay their taxes and do their jobs with great dedication and care, yet get little in return. They are workers on the margin. They are America's invisible working poor."

This book reminded me a lot of Barbara Ehrenrich's Nickel and Dimed where Ehrenrich attempts to live on minimum wage. I appreciated Shulman's work more since Ehrenrich admitted that she "cheated" when times were tough. Shulman didn't attempt to live on minimum wage but she does present several stories from those invisible Americans who are.
I watch Oprah every now and then if her show looks good. Friday's topic was "Paying the Price: Inside the Lives of People Living on Minimum Wage" and Oprah interviewed Shulman and Morgan Spurlock who is best known for his documentary Super Size Me. Spurlock has a show on F/X called 30 Days where he challenges others to experience life outside their comfort zones for one month. In one experiment, Morgan and his fiancée, Alex, left their home in New York and tried to survive for one month in Columbus, Ohio, living on minimum wage.
Shulman discusses many misconceptions about the working poor such as low-wage workers are "lazy." While Morgan and Alex were living on minimum wage for 30 Days, they experienced just the opposite. "I worked harder bussing tables than at any desk job I ever had," Alex says.

A great part of Shulman's book is that she discusses ways we can alter our society to help our working poor such as making sure they have access to health insurance which is a huge expense if they lack it. Another is to work on raising the minimum wage from the federal rate of $5.15 an hour which many states like Washington and California have done.

Overall a great book and a great show to pair the book with.

Kim's Grade: B+

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