Working in the Shadows: Doing the Jobs (Most) Americans Won’t Do by Gabriel Thompson (Nation Books, 2009).
In this feat of ‘immersion journalism’ writer Gabriel Thompson (check out his site) puts himself through back-breaking labor to relate the lives of workers across the country. For two months at a time he works as a lettuce farmer in Arizona, a poultry processor in rural Alabama, and a delivery boy in New York City. Disparate though those three stints may seem, they have much in common: they are physically exhausting and often dangerous jobs largely performed by migrant workers for little pay. The fruits of this labor are regularly consumed by the general population with little thought about the labor entailed. One of Thompson’s more powerful observations is that even with all the steps in the process between the cutting of a head of lettuce and our purchase of it at the grocery store, it is likely that the last hand that touched it before our own was that of the lettuce cutter. Continue reading