cover image The New American Workplace

The New American Workplace

James O'Toole, Edward E. Lawler, III, . . Palgrave McMillan, $27.95 (260pp) ISBN 978-1-4039-6959-0

Several decades after USC professor O'Toole contributed to a Department of Health, Education and Welfare task force report called "Work in America," he and coauthor Lawler, another USC professor, commissioned 16 papers reviewing its conclusions, which are summarized here in workmanlike style. The 1973 study described workers trapped in dehumanizing jobs, which damaged economic productivity and workers' health and happiness; it prescribed job enrichment, improved education (especially technical and mid-career training) and government-funded research. However, the original study missed the three major forces that were transforming the workplace: "globalization, technology and the nature of equity ownership." Tracing the effect of these changes through the early 1990s, the new study concludes that they have eased but not eliminated the older problems, while introducing new ones. Another gap in the first study was to focus solely on solutions from governments and employers, while it was changes by workers that drove much of the progress. Arguing that the old recommendations still apply, the authors also propose new ones, including support for entrepreneurs, eased immigration, reduced employment-based taxes and resurrection of a Nixon-era plan for government-subsidized private health insurance. The number of contributors and the long time period under consideration give weight to the conclusions, but the layers of summary, from the original data, academic papers and commissioned papers, in addition to time lags from publishing delays, dull the message and reduce topicality. (July)