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Featured Books: Past Recommendations


June 2014

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Labor, Economy, and Society

Jeffrey J. Sallaz

Work is, and always will be, a central institution of society. What makes a capitalist society unique is that it treats the human capacity to engage in labor as a basic commodity. This can be a source of dynamism, as when innovative firms raise wages to attract the best and brightest. But it can also be a source of misery, as when one’s skills are suddenly rendered obsolete by forces beyond one’s control.

Jeffrey J. Sallaz asks us to rethink our basic assumptions about work. Drawing on cutting-edge theories within economic sociology and through the use of contemporary examples, he conceptualizes labor as embedded exchange. This draws attention to issues that all too frequently are overlooked in our public discourse and private imaginations: how various forms of work are classified and valued; how markets for labor operate in practice; and how people can challenge the central fiction that their work is simply a commodity to be bought and sold.

This readable and engaging book is suitable for both graduate and advanced undergraduate students. It will be of interest to economic sociologists, scholars of labor, and all of those who find themselves working for a living.

Cambridge; Malden, MA : Polity. 199 pages
ISBN 9780745653679     HD4904 .S256 2013




May 2014

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New Labor in New York: Precarious Workers and the Future of the Labor Movement

Ruth Milkman, Ed Ott (Eds.)

New York City boasts a higher rate of unionization than any other major U.S. city—roughly double the national average—but the city's unions have suffered steady and relentless decline, especially in the private sector. With higher levels of income inequality than any other large city in the nation, New York today is home to a large and growing "precariat": workers with little or no employment security who are often excluded from the basic legal protections that unions struggled for and won in the twentieth century.

Community-based organizations and worker centers have developed the most promising approach to organizing the new precariat and to addressing the crisis facing the labor movement. Home to some of the nation's very first worker centers, New York City today has the single largest concentration of these organizations in the United States, yet until now no one has documented their efforts.

New Labor in New York includes thirteen fine-grained case studies of recent campaigns by worker centers and unions, each of which is based on original research and participant observation. Some of the campaigns documented here involve taxi drivers, street vendors, and domestic workers, as well as middle-strata freelancers, all of whom are excluded from basic employment laws. Other cases focus on supermarket, retail, and restaurant workers, who are nominally covered by such laws but who often experience wage theft and other legal violations; still other campaigns are not restricted to a single occupation or industry. This book offers a richly detailed portrait of the new labor movement in New York City, as well as several recent efforts to expand that movement from the local to the national scale. [from publisher web site]

Ithaca, NY: ILR Press, an imprint of Cornell University Press. 352 pages
ISBN 9780801452833     HD5858.U6 N49 2014




April 2014

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Collective Bargaining Under Duress: Case Studies of Major U.S. Industries

Howard R. Stanger, Ann C. Frost, Paul F. Clark (editors)

The Great Recession that began in 2007 was marked by high rates of unemployment, the near collapse of the banking sector, and the bankruptcy of a host of venerable firms. The economy has only slowly recovered over the intervening years. Throughout this time, the labor movement has faced numerous challenges; among them declining union membership, lackluster organizing performance, and difficulties at the bargaining table. Collective bargaining came under especially severe pressure in both private and public sectors. Employers were now more aggressive than in the 1980s, and unions were expected to concede with no promises of anything in return.

Collective Bargaining under Duress highlights the recent state of collective bargaining in eight different industries across both the private and public sectors. The contributors document the struggles common throughout in new organizing, securing viable collective agreements for members after winning election, and protecting earlier hard-won gains in the face of increasingly aggressive employer opposition. [from publisher web site]

Champaign, IL: Labor and Employment Relations Association. 368 pages
ISBN 9780913447062     HD6508 .C65 2013




March 2014

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After Civil Rights: Racial Realism in the New American Workplace

John David Skrentny

What role should racial difference play in the American workplace? As a nation, we rely on civil rights law to address this question, and the monumental Civil Rights Act of 1964 seemingly answered it: race must not be a factor in workplace decisions. In After Civil Rights, John Skrentny contends that after decades of mass immigration, many employers, Democratic and Republican political leaders, and advocates have adopted a new strategy to manage race and work. Race is now relevant not only in negative cases of discrimination, but in more positive ways as well. In today's workplace, employers routinely practice "racial realism," where they view race as real--as a job qualification. Many believe employee racial differences, and sometimes immigrant status, correspond to unique abilities or evoke desirable reactions from clients or citizens. They also see racial diversity as a way to increase workplace dynamism. The problem is that when employers see race as useful for organizational effectiveness, they are often in violation of civil rights law.

After Civil Rights examines this emerging strategy in a wide range of employment situations, including the low-skilled sector, professional and white-collar jobs, and entertainment and media. In this important book, Skrentny urges us to acknowledge the racial realism already occurring, and lays out a series of reforms that, if enacted, would bring the law and lived experience more in line, yet still remain respectful of the need to protect the civil rights of all workers. [from publisher web site]

Princeton: Princeton University Press. 397 pages
ISBN 9780691159966     HD4903.5.U58 S5697 2014




February 2014

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Employee Engagement in Theory and Practice

Catherine Truss, Rick Delbridge, Kerstin Alfes, Amanda Shantz, and Emma Soane (Eds.)

In recent years there has been a weight of evidence suggesting that engagement has a significantly positive impact on productivity, performance and organisational advocacy, as well as individual wellbeing, and a significantly negative impact on intent to quit and absenteeism from the work place.

This comprehensive new book is unique as it brings together, for the first time, psychological and critical HRM perspectives on engagement as well as their practical application. Employee Engagement in Theory and Practice will familiarise readers with the concepts and core themes that have been explored in research and their application in a business context via a set of carefully chosen and highly relevant original and case studies, some of which are co-authored by invited practitioners.

Written in an accessible manner, this book will be essential reading for scholars in the field, students studying at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, as well as practitioners interested in finding out more about the theoretical underpinnings of engagement alongside its practical application. [from publisher web site]

Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon; New York, NY: Routledge. 321 pages
ISBN 9780415657426     HF5549.5.M63 E475 2014




January 2014

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Unfinished Business: Paid Family Leave in California and the Future of U.S. Work-Family Policy

Ruth Milkman, Eileen Appelbaum

Unfinished Business documents the history and impact of California's paid family leave program, the first of its kind in the United States, which began in 2004. Drawing on original data from fieldwork and surveys of employers, workers, and the larger California adult population, Ruth Milkman and Eileen Appelbaum analyze in detail the effect of the state’s landmark paid family leave on employers and workers. They also explore the implications of California’s decade-long experience with paid family leave for the nation, which is engaged in ongoing debate about work-family policies.

Milkman and Appelbaum recount the process by which California workers and their allies built a coalition to win passage of paid family leave in the state legislature, and lay out the lessons for advocates in other states and localities, as well as the nation. Because paid leave enjoys extensive popular support across the political spectrum, campaigns for such laws have an excellent chance of success if some basic preconditions are met. Do paid family leave and similar programs impose significant costs and burdens on employers? Business interests argue that they do and routinely oppose any and all legislative initiatives in this area. Once the program took effect in California, this book shows, large majorities of employers themselves reported that its impact on productivity, profitability, and performance was negligible or positive.

Unfinished Business demonstrates that the California program is well managed and easy to access, but that awareness of its existence remains limited. Moreover, those who need the program’s benefits most urgently—low-wage workers, young workers, immigrants, and disadvantaged minorities—are least likely to know about it. As a result, the long-standing pattern of inequality in access to paid leave has remained largely intact.

[from publisher web site]

Ithaca, NY: ILR Press, an imprint of Cornell University Press. 151 pages
ISBN 978-0-8014-5238-3     HD6065.5.U6 M55 2013




December 2013

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Reconstructing Value: Leadership Skills for a Sustainable World

Elizabeth C. Kurucz, Barry A. Colbert, and David Wheeler

Building societal well-being, embedded in a healthy environment, is the central contemporary challenge for businesses, governments, civil society organizations and academic institutions. In Reconstructing Value: Leadership skills for a Sustainable World, co-authors Elizabeth Kurucz, Barry Colbert and David Wheeler present a ‘4R’s’ process for re-thinking, relating, responding and re-inventing our ways of operating on the planet, and for re-aligning our systems of value creation. They outline some key design parameters and dozens of useful process questions to help promote constructive dialogue to put us on a more sustainable path. The book equips leaders and managers in business, civil society and government to come to a clear understanding of global challenges and opportunities, to ask good questions, and to engage others in collaborative efforts at building positive value. [from publisher web site]

Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 299 pages
ISBN 9781442611535     HD57.7 K87 2013




November 2013

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Made in the USA: The Rise and Retreat of American Manufacturing

Vaclav Smil

In Made in the USA, Vaclav Smil powerfully rebuts the notion that manufacturing is a relic of pre-digital history and that the loss of American manufacturing is a desirable evolutionary step toward a pure service economy. Smil argues that no advanced economy can prosper without a strong, innovative manufacturing sector and the jobs it creates. Reversing a famous information economy dictum, Smil argues that serving potato chips is not as good as making microchips. The history of manufacturing in America, Smil tells us, is a story of nation-building. He explains how manufacturing became a fundamental force behind America's economic, strategic, and social dominance. He describes American manufacturing's rapid rise at the end of the nineteenth century, its consolidation and modernization between the two world wars, its role as an enabler of mass consumption after 1945, and its recent decline. Some economists argue that shipping low-value jobs overseas matters little because the high-value work remains in the United States. But, asks Smil, do we want a society that consists of a small population of workers doing high-value-added work and masses of unemployed? Smil assesses various suggestions for solving America's manufacturing crisis, including lowering corporate tax rates, promoting research and development, and improving public education. Will America act to preserve and reinvigorate its manufacturing? It is crucial to our social and economic well-being; but, Smil warns, the odds are no better than even. [from publisher web site]

Cambridge, Massachusetts : The MIT Press. 263 pages
ISBN 9780262019385     HD9725 .S57 2013




October 2013

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Degraded Work: The Struggle at the Bottom of the Labor Market

Marc Doussard

Critics on the left and the right typically agree that globalization, the loss of manufacturing jobs, and the expansion of the service sector have led to income inequality and rising numbers of low-paying jobs with poor working conditions.

In Degraded Work, Marc Doussard demonstrates that this decline in wages and working conditions is anything but the unavoidable result of competitive economic forces. Rather, he makes the case that service sector and other local-serving employers have boosted profit with innovative practices to exploit workers, demeaning their jobs in new ways—denying safety equipment, fining workers for taking scheduled breaks, requiring unpaid overtime—that go far beyond wage cuts. Doussard asserts that the degradation of service work is a choice rather than an inevitability, and he outlines concrete steps that can be taken to help establish a fairer postindustrial labor market.

Drawing on fieldwork in Chicago, Degraded Work examines changes in two industries in which inferior job quality is assumed to be intrinsic: residential construction and food retail. In both cases, Doussard shows how employers degraded working conditions as part of a successful and intricate strategy to increase profits. Arguing that a growing service sector does not have to mean growing inequality, Doussard proposes creative policy and organizing opportunities that workers and advocates can use to improve job quality despite the overwhelming barriers to national political action.

[from publisher web site]

Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 275 pages
ISBN 9780816681402     HD8072.5 .D68 2013




September 2013

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The Psychology of Organizational Change: Viewing Change From the Employee's Perspective

Shaul Oreg, Alexandra Michel, and Rune Todnem By (Eds.)

In a rapidly changing world, with constantly shifting dynamics, organizational change may prove essential if businesses are to continue to succeed. The majority of research on organizational change adopts a macro outlook, focusing on strategic issues from the perspective of the organization and its management. In this volume we undertake a micro perspective, focusing on the individual and, more specifically, the importance of the employees and their reactions to organizational change. This focus expands our understanding of why change initiatives frequently fail. The Psychology of Organizational Change constitutes an essential resource for scholars, students, and practitioners in the field of organizational change and development who strive to understand how to make change work not only for the organization, but also for its members.

• Proposes a unique view of organizational change focusing on recipients' reactions which directly addresses factors relating to those most influenced by change

• Combines empirical findings, broad integrative reviews and advancement of new theories

• Contributions from the leading scholars in the field gives readers access to cutting-edge findings and conceptual formulations [from publisher web site]

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 332 pages
ISBN 9781107020092     HD58.8 .P79 2013




August 2013

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Handbook of Research in International Human Resource Management (2nd Ed.)

Gunter K. Stahl, Ingmar Bjorkman, Shad Morris (Eds.)

The second edition of this Handbook provides up-to-date insight into ground-breaking research on international human resource issues today. These issues are faced by multinational companies which can be as small as one person with a computer and Internet connection or as large as a medium-sized country.

Written by the field’s most distinguished researchers, the book will stimulate thought for new research and provide a glimpse of where we have been and where we are going. The book explores issues such as the importance of linking IHRM activities to organizational strategy and culture; talent management; staffing; performance management; leadership development; diversity management; international assignment and mobility issues; and the role of IHRM in the management of global teams and cross-border joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions.

The Handbook illustrates that IHRM research is both theoretically deep and eclectic. Drawing upon a range of paradigms and perspectives this compendium will prove invaluable for HRM scholars, doctoral students, and others interested in IHRM research. [from publisher web site]

Cheltenham, UK ; Northampton, MA : Edward Elgar Publishing. 593 pages
ISBN 9781849809184     HF5549.5.E45 H36




July 2013

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Working Hard for the American Dream: Workers and Their Unions, World War I to the Present

Randi Storch

Working Hard for the American Dream presents an in-depth examination of the various economic, social, and political developments that shaped labor history in the United States from World War I until the present day. By taking a working-class perspective, the text vividly illustrates the ways average workers experienced the U.S. economy's changing nature, the relationship of the government to workers, and how global economic and political forces affected—and were affected by—working Americans. We are shown how evolving economic developments and the changing composition of the nation's working class affected working-class agency and protest, ideologies, and organization. Workers' struggle to exert power in the modern workplace is also examined, along with how and why workplace activism has changed over time among a broad range of industrial, agricultural, public, and service workers. Incorporating the most recent scholarship in labor history, Working Hard for the American Dream offers illuminating insights into 20th-century union history in the United States. [from back cover]

Chichester, West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.. 291 pages
ISBN 9781118541401     HD6508 .S697 2013