Saturday, April 2, 2011

Working in the Shadows

- A year of doing the jobs [most] Americans won't do -

By Gabriel Thompson

The author spent 2008 working 3 different jobs (2 months each): picking lettuce (which actually involves a lot of cutting!) in Yuma, AZ; dumping heavy tubs of chicken parts in Russellvile, AL; and delivering for a restaurant in New York City. All jobs were very hard and not well paid, but to me it seemed the one in the chicken plant was probably the hardest, though the most physically demanding was cutting lettuce. He also spent a couple of days working at a flower shop with crazy owners, who ended up firing him because he smiled too much. Although everybody probably knows that these jobs are hard and not well paid, it's hard to understand how hard they really are without experiencing it yourself. And through Thompson, it's easy to see that what I consider hard work is nothing compared to what people who have to do these jobs all the time have to go through.
The books seems fairly balanced and objective - there's no slamming on the companies or obvious exaggerations of injustices - and does a good job and detailing many aspects of the life of the workers. And even though he starts out intending to focus on illegal immigrants, he concludes that they are by no means the only ones suffering in the system as it is.
There were a couple of inconsistencies that had me go back and look at details in the book (like the time lag between the Yuma and Russellville jobs - it seemed from the narration that he was still recovering physically from picking lettuce when he started the chicken job, but in fact it was about 3 months; and the 3rd day of his work at the restaurant, where he said he was still in training - but according to what the lady told him when he just started, training was supposed to last 2 days).
However, all-in-all the book is well written and very interesting. So if you want to know more about where your food comes from and what involves in getting it to your supermarket (or doorstep), this book may answer more questions than you think you have. [312 pp.]

Book link