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Author Victor Tan Chen Studies Long-term Unemployed Auto Workers in US and Canada

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Cut Loose: Jobless and Hopeless in an Unfair Economy is an important new book by Victor Tan Chen, who teaches sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University and is editor/founder of the online magazine, InTheFray.comWe start with an overview: Michigan is now a “right to work” state, the city of Detroit followed GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy, and American automakers are still responding to foreign competition with union busting and offshoring.

Chen’s book is rich with real-life anecdotes of autoworkers in America and Canada who were prosperous 10 years ago, and many have poor health and very poor job prospects.  We talk about PBC’s Uncle Charlie, aged 95, who worked 30+ years at Ford and has been comfortably retired for almost 40 years.

Chen describes the 2-tiered workforce in Detroit today, where new workers make half of the hourly wage of senior employees, with few benefits.

Chen talks about the concept of “meritocracy”, a management term that has been embraced by many workers who think they are more valuable than others, and PBC notes how Silicon Valley’s big tech companies promote this meme–even as Steve Jobs led an employer conspiracy to keep engineers and others from making too much money.

You can read Chen’s commentary on meritocracy here.