Kathleen Burge at the Boston Globe has this review:
As Newton resident Lisa Dodson, a Boston College sociology professor in the thick of a research project, was interviewing a grocery story manager in the Midwest about the difficulties of the low-income workers he supervised, he asked her a curious question: “Don’t you want to know what this does to me too?’’
She did. And so the manager talked about the sense of unfairness he felt as a supervisor, making enough to live comfortably while overseeing workers who couldn’t feed their families on the money they earned. That inequality, he told her, tainted his job, making him feel complicit in an unfair system that paid hard workers too little to cover basic needs.
The interview changed the way Dodson talked with other supervisors and managers of low-income workers, and she began to find that many of them felt the same discomfort as the grocery store manager. And many went a step further, finding ways to undermine the system and slip their workers extra money, food, or time needed to care for sick children. She was surprised how widespread these acts were. In her new book, “The Moral Underground: How Ordinary Americans Subvert an Unfair Economy,’’ she called such behavior “economic disobedience.’’
As Dodson’s questions grew more pointed, she began to hear fascinating stories. Andrew, a manager in a large Midwest food business, said he put extra money in the paychecks of those earning a “poverty wage,’’ punched out their time cards at the usual quitting time when they had to leave early for a doctor’s appointment, and gave them food.
Andrew had decided that by supervising workers who were treated unfairly – paid too little and subjected to inflexible schedules that prevented them from taking care of their families – he was playing a direct role in the unfair system, and so he was morally obligated to act.
Dodson concluded that Andrew and many like him were following the American tradition of civil disobedience – this time, against the economy – and creating a “moral underground.’’
But her book, which came out late last year, has provoked debate about the morality of such acts.
[More at Boston.com]