Restoring the American Dream
Many American families have not prospered in the new "knowledge economy." The layoffs, restructurings, and wage and benefit cuts that have followed the short-lived boom of the 1990s threaten our deeply held values of justice, fairness, family, and work. These values—and not those superficial ones political pollsters ask about—are the foundation of the American dream of good jobs, fair pay, and opportunities for all. In this call to action for families, business, labor, and government, Thomas Kochan outlines ways in which we can empower working families to earn a good living by doing satisfying work while still having time for family and community life.
We cannot make the transition to a knowledge economy, writes Kochan, with a workforce that is stressed, frustrated, and insecure. Businesses need to rebuild relationships with their employees based on trust. And working families need to take control of their own destinies.
First, we can take action that goes beyond the workplace buzzwords flexible and family friendly to design systems that support productive work and healthy family life. We can invest in better basic education and life-long learning, and we can work toward strategies for creating and sustaining good jobs with portable benefits. We need organizations that value investors of human capital—their employees—as highly as they do investors of financial capital, and we need a renewed labor movement to give workers a stronger voice. Kochan lays out an agenda for working families in the twenty-first century that calls for business, labor, government, and workers to come together to make the changes that will allow us all to benefit from the new economy. The solution to our problems, he points out, is too important to be left to "the market."
About the Author
Thomas A. Kochan is George Maverick Bunker Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management and Professor of Engineering Systems at MIT. He is Codirector of both the Institute for Work and Employment Research at the Sloan School and the MIT Workplace Center. He is coauthor (with Paul Osterman, Richard M. Locke, and Michael J. Piore) of Working in America: A Blueprint for the New Labor Market (MIT Press, 2002).
"In this eye-opening work, Tom Kochan sounds a clarion call for greater investment in human capital. His vision of the new American dream gives special and long-overdue emphasis to a fairer work-family balance in this rapidly changing world. It's a valuable guide to a better and brighter future, as we struggle to adapt to a knowledge-based economy and achieve genuine economic security for all our people."
—Senator Edward M. Kennedy
"America is the wealthiest country in the world, yet American workers are experiencing a generation-long stagnation of wages and living standards. Thomas Kochan has produced a timely and important book assessing the economic challenges facing American workers, charting a forward-looking agenda for our country and challenging business, labor, and government to work together to reclaim the American dream. His arguments and proposals deserve the careful attention of anyone concerned with the living standards of the American people and the future of our country."
—John Sweeney, President, AFL-CIO
"The biggest story of the new millennium isn't the Internet or the iPod. It's the disappearance of good jobs. This book confronts that harsh reality but also shows that there's no need to sit and watch as the American dream disappears. Kochan offers real, practical solutions for helping ensure that the 21st-century economy rewards and values the work of everyone, not just CEOs."
—Andrew L. Stern, President, Service Employees International Union
"Business has discovered that economic results and employee commitment can be improved by including employees in the brain trust that identifies problems and finds new, workable solutions. Kochan brilliantly uses this process to tackle some of the most fundamental societal and economic problems we face in shifting from an industrial to a knowledge economy. His many suggestions for improving jobs and benefits, building knowledge-based organizations, and integrating work and family life will be essential if we are to truly restore the belief in and reality of the American dream."
—Ellen Galinsky, President, Families and Work Institute, and author of Ask the Children
"Restoring the American Dream lays out the facts facing workers and their families and then provides a set of actionable recommendations that can positively affect American society. Letting no one off the hook, this is a book that could only have been written by someone like Tom Kochan, with his thirty-plus years of scholarly research, ongoing consulting and policy advising, and, most of all, his humanity and compassion. It is this remarkable combination of science, wisdom, and compassion that makes Restoring the American Dream such a powerful and compelling read."
—Jeffrey Pfeffer, Professor, Stanford Business School, and author, The Human Equation: Building Profits by Putting People First
"Tom Kochan's vast experience, thoughtfulness, and intelligence are on full display in this important book that reminds us how much the voices of America's working families are needed today in shaping the debate about our economy. Through insightful examples, he gives us a roadmap to begin to restore the American dream."
—Beth Shulman, author of The Betrayal of Work: How Low-Wage Jobs Fail 30 Million Americans