David Bensman

David Bensman is a professor of labor studies and employment relations at Rutgers University. He is the co-author of Rusted Dreams: Hard Times in a Steel Community.

Recent Articles

Security for a Precarious Workforce

What will it take, economically and politically, to broadly regularize employment?  

AP Photo/David Goldman
AP Photo/David Goldman A worker carries a bucket to clean windows outside a Burger King restaurant before it opens as protestors demonstrate outside, Thursday, September 4, 2014, in Atlanta. This book review appears in the Fall 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . A Precariat Charter: From Denizens to Citizens By Guy Standing 440 pp. Bloombury Publishing $27.95 Under the Bus: How Working Women Are Being Run Over By Caroline Fredrickson 256 pp. The New Press $25.95 Only One Thing Can Save Us: Why America Needs a New Kind of Labor Movement By Thomas Geoghegan 272 pp. The New Press $25.95 I n recent years, the labor market has been marked by a shift from standard employment to new forms of contingent work. While Silicon Valley has painted a picture of opportunity, informality, ingenuity, self-reliance, and a sharing economy, for most people this new world turns out to offer mainly insecurity. The “fissuring” of workplaces, in David Weil’s term, has meant that...

Workers on the Edge

AP Images/Amy Sancetta
O ne of the most significant contributing causes of the widening inequality and insecurity in the American workforce is the accelerating shift to what economists call contingent employment. That means any form of employment that is not a standard payroll job with a regular paycheck. It can take the form of temps, contract workers, part time jobs, or jobs with irregular hours. A study by the GAO found that fully one-third of the U.S. workforce, or 42.6 million workers, was contingent, meaning in a work arrangement that is “not long-term, year-round, full-time employment with a single employer. “ It is a common myth that the shift to precarious, irregular employment reflects either the structure of the new, digital economy or the preferences of workers themselves. But in reality, most contingent work is the result of efforts by employers to undermine wages, job protections and worker bargaining power. Work that could be (and once was) standard payroll employment is turned into...

A Long Haul

How the government's policy to modernize trucks collides with its policies to promote high-wage jobs

The Obama administration has defined the misclassification of employed workers as independent contractors to be an important problem resulting in workers losing legal protections and benefits, and governments losing tax revenue and insurance contributions from employers. Yet at the very same time, the administration's agencies are supporting and encouraging misclassification in at least two sectors of the trucking industry -- port trucking ("drayage") and ground express delivery. Drayage is that part of the trucking industry that hauls containers from ports to railroad yards, warehouses, and distribution centers, where containers are broken down and the goods repacked for delivery to retail stores. The industry "employs" more than 110,000 drivers at seaports on the West Coast, Gulf Coast, and the Atlantic seaboard as well as at large inland ports such as Chicago. Most of the drivers work under the legal status of independent contractors, which means that they own their trucks and use...

Stuck on the Low Road

Deregulation turned truck driving from a good job into a bad one.
Now, thanks to local organizing and government action, there's a better road.

(AP Photo/Jeff Lewis)
Rotterdam, Europe's largest port, is a marvel of efficiency. More than 7,000 container ships visit its docks annually, most stopping for barely more than a day. New terminal facilities, built on landfill where the river meets the sea, handle 10 million containers with a minimum of congestion and pollution. The freight -- Chinese clothing and electronics, American pharmaceuticals, Spanish automobiles -- seamlessly flows to warehouses, distribution centers, rail yards, and barges surrounding the port, on time and on schedule. The tightly integrated freight-movement system at the port makes it possible to operate a just-in-time logistics system in which goods arrive at their destination 15 minutes before they are moved to their next spot on the supply chain. This allows shippers to operate with minimal inventory, a must on a continent where most retail shops have minimal space to store goods. Lean logistics means lower interest costs on merchandise, lower insurance costs, less theft, and...