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"Cut Loose" explores former autoworkers' stories, struggles in changing economy

Sep 2, 2015

Lloyd Hartnett assembly line in 1957
Credit flickr user John Lloyd / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

We may be several years past the Great Recession, but the shockwave of pain and job loss of those years is still being felt in many homes around the country.

That’s especially true for autoworkers.

Since the mid-20th century, those well-paid jobs on the auto assembly lines built not only cars and trucks, but the American middle class as well.

Today, entry-level jobs in auto plants pay around $16 an hour.

But many unlucky autoworkers have seen their jobs go away, never to return.

Sociologist Victor Tan Chen talked to former autoworkers, hearing their struggles to stay afloat, and tells their stories in his new book, Cut Loose: Jobless and Hopeless in an Unfair Economy.

Chen tells us he drew on his experience as a former reporter for Newsday and as a sociologist at Virginia Commonwealth University to inject a human element into a story about the decline of good jobs.

“The American middle class today, we’re seeing those good jobs, that paid well and provided benefits, we’re seeing those disappearing with all these trends in the broader economy,” Chen says.

In our conversation above, Victor Tan Chen tells us more about the stories he heard and how life has changed for the middle-class worker in a more competitive economic environment.