The Human Tradition in American Labor history/Reorganizing the Rust Belt: An Inside Study of the American Labor movement/A Promise Unfulfilled: Unions, Immigration, and the Farm workers/Reshaping the North American Automobile Industry: Restructuring, Corporatism, and Union Democracy in Mexico/Human Capital in the United States from 1975 to 2000: Patterns of Growth and utilization/Labor Standards in the United States and Canada
Smith, Christine L., International Labour Review
Recent books The human tradition in American labor history. Edited by Eric ARNESEN. Wilmington, DE, SR Books, 2004. xvi + 258 pp. Bibliography, index. ISBN 0-8420-2987-7.
Reorganizing the Rust Belt: An inside study of the American labor movement. By Steven Henry LOPEZ. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA, and London, University of California Press, 2004. xxii + 292 pp. Bibliography, index. ISBN 0-520-23565-7.
A promise unfulfilled: Unions, immigration, and the farm workers. By Philip L. MARTIN. Ithaca, NY, and London, Cornell University Press, 2003. viii + 23 pp. Tables, figures, bibliography, index. ISBN 0-8014-8875-3.
Reshaping the North American automobile industry: Restructuring, corporatism, and union democracy in Mexico. By John P. TUMAN. London and New York, NY, Continuum, 2003. x + 194 pp. Tables, figure, bibliography, index. ISBN 0-8264-5318-X.
Human capital in the United States from 1975 to 2000: Patterns of growth and utilization. By Robert H. HAVEMAN, Andrew BERSHADKER, and Jonathan A. SCHWABISH. Kalamazoo, MI, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, 2003. xii + 228 pp. Tables, figures, appendices, bibliography, index. ISBN 0-88099-255-7.
Labor standards in the United States and Canada. By Richard N. BLOCK, Karen ROBERTS and R. Oliver CLARKE. Kalamazoo, MI, W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, 2003. xii + 174 pp. Tables, figure, bibliography, index. ISBN 0-88099-235-2.
In this review of several books on labour and the labour movement in the United States, we start with a historical perspective, specifically a biographical one. The editor of The human tradition in American labor history has assembled a range of short biographies of both labour leaders and unknown activists in the American labour movement. Contributors are themselves specialist historians, lawyers or social scientists. The subjects of the biographies are drawn from all aspects of American labour history and illustrate various movements for social change, including trade unionism, labour politics and race relations, as well as the historical spread from eighteenth-century slavery, to early twentieth-century immigrant labour activists and feminists, the history of the industrial unions under the AFL-CIO, and more recently the (largely Mexican) immigrant agricultural workers.
Reorganizing the Rust Belt focuses on the Pittsburgh area, formerly the centre of the American steel industry and industrial unionism. As the steel industry declined so did collective bargaining and high-wage manufacturing jobs. The author, a sociologist, examines post-industrial Pittsburgh and the low-wage jobs which emerged in the commercial and service industries that replaced the heavy industry of yore. So many new service jobs were created that "despite the exodus of more than 150,000 industrial jobs between 1974 and 1993, total employment in the Pittsburgh metro area held steady (at 863,000) between 1974 and 1984 and then actually grew by 105,000 jobs by 1993". By the first quarter of 2000, with this job growth and a decline in the population, local unemployment had fallen below 5 per cent. The problem therefore is not one of jobs, but of jobs which proved to pay below the living wage and were likely to be part-time, to have fewer benefits, and not to be unionized. It was as if the area had returned to the poverty wages and slum dwelling existing prior to the unionization of steel and mining. The author examines what became of the labour movement after the collapse of the local industrial economy, specifically the local branch of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and its organizing activities in local nursing homes, and how the new labour movement confronted the legacies of the old.
In Promise unfulfilled, the author returns to the passage by the State of California of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act in 1975, and what became of that strategy of granting farm workers the right to organize in defence of their working conditions. For, over a quarter of a century later, only a tiny percentage of farm workers in the state now belong to unions and wages remain less than half of those of non-agricultural workers. He examines the key features of the agricultural labour market in California, notably the shifting ethnic make-up of the pool of workers and the evolution of the major union. Finally, he reviews the impact of immigration on agriculture in the state. His main conclusion is that these efforts to grant rights to farm workers failed because of unauthorized migration and the changing structure of farm employment.
Reshaping the North American automobile industry is concerned with a more recent phenomenon in the North American labour market: the reorientation by multinational automobile firms of their plants in Mexico, Canada and the United States toward regional production and trade, following trade liberalization and economic deregulation. The result has been appreciable growth in intra-regional trade in motor vehicles and automobile parts. This book focuses on the significant role Mexico has come to play in the North American automobile industry as a result of this regional integration. Since 1998, for example, Mexico has been the third-largest exporter of vehicles to the United States, accounting for over 11 per cent of vehicles and 13 per cent of engines sold or used there. It also serves as the sole global production base for certain product lines. These developments have posed important challenges for Mexican automobile workers and unions. Labour productivity and quality had to be raised to internationally competitive levels, and major concessions from union leaders and workers were required to achieve this. This book explores the reactions by workers and unions to the resulting changed working conditions (often characterized by lower wages, more precarious employment and high levels of stress and turnover among workers), as well as the varying degrees of accommodation displayed by different unions towards this economic restructuring and the job opportunities arising from increased export production.
Finally, two books on measuring: one on labour standards in the United States and Canada, the other on the earnings capacity of human capital. Labor standards in the United States and Canada is an attempt to measure and quantify a range of labour standards in those two countries. The main concern in these globalization times is, of course, whether high labour standards adversely affect overall economic growth and employment because they make it difficult for firms in countries with high labour standards to compete internationally, particularly with countries with lower labour standards. The authors seek to establish a measure enabling cross-country comparisons, in this case between the United States and Canada because of the Free Trade Agreement signed between them in 1988, and because they are broadly comparable in many ways relevant to this enquiry. In order to encourage debate on the system of measures offered here, the publishers have made both the measures and the data on which they are based accessible on a website (www.upjohninstitute.org/BlockRoberts).
The authors of Human capital in the United States from 1975 to 2000 took the earnings capacity indicator first devised by one of them (Robert Haveman) in the 1970s, and used it to measure the human capital (the productive contributions of workers and their skills) embodied in the entire working-age population, as well for several at-risk sub-groups. Beyond the development of measures of human capital to rank beside those of physical and natural resources, the particular interest of this study is improved understanding of the value of labour for the United States economy and the extent to which it is used. The authors document the overall level and growth of human capital in the United States over the past three decades, and for groups distinguished by sex, race, education, age and family structure. They also develop an index of human capital utilization, with which to study the extent to which at-risk groups use their human capital, how these rates change over time and how these groups differ in the extent to which they use their human capital.
C. L. S.…
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Publication information: Article title: The Human Tradition in American Labor history/Reorganizing the Rust Belt: An Inside Study of the American Labor movement/A Promise Unfulfilled: Unions, Immigration, and the Farm workers/Reshaping the North American Automobile Industry: Restructuring, Corporatism, and Union Democracy in Mexico/Human Capital in the United States from 1975 to 2000: Patterns of Growth and utilization/Labor Standards in the United States and Canada. Contributors: Smith, Christine L. - Author. Journal title: International Labour Review. Volume: 144. Issue: 3 Publication date: July 1, 2005. Page number: 353+. © 2008 Blackwell Publishers Ltd. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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