Are widespread layoffs a normal and necessary part of U.S. business? No, says Louis Uchitelle in The Disposable American: Layoffs and Their Consequences. Uchitelle, an award-winning New York Times business writer, traces the history of work since the rise of corporate America, providing an interesting perspective on how various laws, policies and programs have affected American business and vice versa. Job security, he maintains, a given into the 1970s, has given way to job insecurity due to massive layoffs affecting both blue- and white-collar workers. Since the early 1980s, at least 30 million full-time workers have lost their jobs, and many have not recovered financially or emotionally, leading to a festering national crisis. To illustrate, Uchitelle profiles the layoffs of Stanley Works toolmakers, United Airlines aircraft mechanics and a number of white-collar workers. Their stories sometimes read more like an American nightmare than the realization of the American dream. Upon reading The Disposable American, one can't help but think something has gone radically wrong. While in the short term, layoffs might appear to be the right response, in the long term they often are not. The hoped-for efficiency and profitability don't always materialize. If layoffs weren't such an easy-to-exercise option, Uchitelle asserts, there would be fewer ineffective mergers and less outsourcing. Furthermore, there would be a decrease in the amount of production and services moving to foreign competitors and overseas subsidiaries of American companies. Yes, there are opportunities available for laid-off workers. But there isn't enough of the right kind of work available, and government and private industry aren't doing enough to create it, Uchitelle argues. Additional education and training, when available and appropriate, only go so far. He recommends implementing policies and procedures to count layoffs more accurately so the magnitude of the problem becomes more obvious, and companies are held more accountable. This informative book should be of interest to all Americans.

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