Interviewer: And yet the people in Nickel and Dimed, who were closer to real poverty than the people in Bait and Switch, seemed to have more rebelliousness, more defiance.
Barbara Ehrenreich: That was my experience. It's of course not necessarily statistically true, just in the settings I was in. But I did find that the blue-collar workers were more willing to express defiance, even if only in small ways: making faces at the boss behind her back or making sarcastic remarks. In blue-collar work, there is a larger gap between the worker and the manager. You aren't required to be as socialized, just to obey.
In blue-collar jobs, they mostly just want to know if you are taking drugs or are a convicted felon. But in the white-collar world, there's much more probing of your personality and they want one specific personality: someone cheerful, upbeat and very social. You are required to be a team player...
You end Bait and Switch with some ideas for organizing unemployed white-collar workers. Has there been any response to that?
I put out some ideas, such as national health care and increased unemployment benefits. But one thing that struck me doing the research for the book was that there was no way for unemployed or underemployed people to come together that wasn't an evangelical recruiting session or a money scam.
As I go around talking to people on this book tour, I've been helping set up networks of local underemployed and unemployed white-collar workers. People have really been excited about the simple thing of being able to sit around and share stories with other people. People feel like their job loss is their fault and just having conversations with others is breaking through the isolation and getting them to think about change. White-collar organizing has been pretty limited to health professionals, teachers, some professors. It would be great if these meetings could change that.
the shitstem has plenty of tricks up her sleeves, huh?