On the Clock
What Low-Wage Work Did to Me and How It Drives America Insane
by Emily Guendelsberger
Pub Date 16 Jul 2019
The bitingly funny, eye-opening story of a college-educated young professional who finds work in the automated and time-starved world of hourly labor
After the local newspaper where she worked as a reporter closed, Emily Guendelsberger took a pre-Christmas job at an Amazon fulfillment center outside Louisville, Kentucky. There, the vending machines were stocked with painkillers, and the staff turnover was dizzying. In the new year, she travelled to North Carolina to work at a call center, a place where even bathroom breaks were timed to the second. And finally, Guendelsberger was hired at a San Francisco McDonald's, narrowly escaping revenge-seeking customers who pelted her with condiments.
Across three jobs, and in three different parts of the country, Guendelsberger directly took part in the revolution changing the U.S. workplace. ON THE CLOCK takes us behind the scenes of the fastest-growing segment of the American workforce to understand the future of work in America—and its present. Until robots pack boxes, resolve billing issues, and make fast food, human beings supervised by AI will continue to get the job done. Guendelsberger shows us how workers went from being the most expensive element of production to the cheapest—and how low wage jobs have been remade to serve the ideals of efficiency, at the cost of humanity.
ON THE CLOCK explores the lengths that half of Americans will go to in order to make a living, offering not only a better understanding of the modern workplace, but also surprising solutions to make work more humane for millions of Americans.
"Guendelsberger's narration is vivid, humorous, and honest; she admits to the feelings of despair, panic, and shame that these jobs frequently inspire, allowing for a more complex and complete picture of the experience. This is a riveting window into minimum-wage work and the subsistence living it engenders." —Publishers Weekly
"When former Onion editor Emily Guendelsberger explores how the non-college majority scrapes by, she uncovers a Darwinian hellscape where the richest man on earth munificently bestows painkillers upon his warehouse serfs, telemarketers pitch products to the newly bereaved, and the customer is always right-even when she's lobbing McNugget sauce at your head. Filled with compassion, fury, and an invigorating dose of hope, On The Clock is the laugh-till-you-cry exposé our laugh-till-you-cry nation deserves." —Daniel Brook, author of The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner-Take-All America, A History of Future Cities, and The Accident of Color: A Story of Race in Reconstruction