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Recently, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan, a $ 1.9 trillion stimulus package designed to accelerate America’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The incentive includes direct payments to Americans and funding to expand unemployment benefits, support state and local governments, and reopen schools, and expand access to coronavirus testing and vaccines. Many elements of the plan specifically target low and no income households to lift millions of Americans out of poverty.

This historic bill, which was passed in the Senate as part of budget reconciliation to avoid a filibuster by the Republicans, no longer provides for a measure to increase the federal minimum wage from currently US $ 7.25 to US $ 15 since 2009 The parliamentarian of the Senate classified the increase in the minimum wage contained in the bill as being outside the scope of the budget vote. While we wait to see what happens next (get ready for halftime, y’all), let’s take a look at some books on the history of American work and the minimum wage.

General history books on American work and the minimum wage

From the people who brought you the weekend: A Brief Illustrated History of Working in the United States by Priscilla Murolo and AB Chitty

Don’t take your weekends for granted, folks – they’re the product of a lot of work. This comprehensive, human-centered history of American labor conditions and regulations begins in the 17th century with enslaved humans and indentured servants and extends to the technicians of Silicon Valley. The updated edition, released in 2018, includes new reports on sex workers, immigrant rights, disability issues, as well as the 2016 elections and former President Trump’s relationship with unions.

$ 2.00 per day: Kathryn Edin and H. Luke Shaefer make a living on almost nothing in America

If you’re wondering how it is possible for a stimulus package to actually make such a big difference, this look at the lives of Americans surviving with little to no money will bring the concept to life. After decades of research on poverty, the sociologist Kathryn Edin discovered a new phenomenon: families with practically no income at all. She and Luke Shaefer, an expert on social policy and poverty, calculated that many of these households can get by on just two dollars per person per day. That’s $ 60 to meet all of a person’s needs for an entire month. $ 240 for a family of four. How did they do it and where did this kind of poverty come from? Edin and Shaefer’s exploration is based on in-depth research that highlights the potential impact of permanent child tax credits and / or the universal basic income.

Minimum Wage (The MIT Press) by David Neumark and William L. Wascher

What does a minimum wage bring and does it even work? Have this thorough – and thoroughly shaky – academic review of the evidence explained. Drawing on their own research, studies and statistics from more than a hundred countries in developed and developing countries, economists David Neumark and William L. Wascher present a global perspective on the history and impact of federal minimum wages on employment practices and income distribution, long-term market effects and the general health of economies.

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Racism, sexism and work

Black Labor in the Making of America by Joe William Trotter, Jr.

The American economy was literally built on the labor of enslaved people, but that’s not usually how the story is told. Here, Joe William Trotter Jr. focuses the voices and experiences of black workers in order to correct the historical narrative that has misrepresented and underrepresented their contributions to American labor since the first Africans were brought to the US in 1619, an important addition to public conversation about work and the American economy with the potential to change the way we understand the intersections of race, class, and more.

Under the bus: How Caroline Fredrickson ran working women over

Women have made some significant cracks in the glass ceiling – and yes, one woman now occupies the second highest office in the country – but that doesn’t mean we’ve solved all of the problems women on the workforce face. As part of her personal career journey, Caroline Fredrickson examines how outdated labor laws rooted in misogynistic and racist ideas continue to make many women vulnerable to abuse and abuse, denying them access to minimum wages, equal pay and opportunities for advancement.

At Work One Day: The Fight Against Sexual Violence Against America’s Most Vulnerable Workers by Bernice Yeung

Women and people of color are at risk in jobs up and down the business ladder, but what level they are at can determine what, if anything, they can do in response to abuse or violence in the workplace. And women, especially women of skin color who work in low-wage positions, are particularly vulnerable to workplace violence, as they are often excluded from social movements like #MeToo and do not have the financial resources to take legal action or quit a job. Eliminating economic inequality is an essential step in ending violence in the workplace (and closing the gender pay gap). This book will help you relate the points between politics and the real issues it is meant to address.

Strikingly, this list of books on the American workforce lacks a look at the impact and treatment of Latinx workers, who have been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 recession and who could benefit greatly from an increase in the minimum wage.

I also chose to exclude memoirs about living on the minimum wage from this list of books on American work, as all of the titles my research revealed (including Barbara Ehrenreich’s famous Nickel & Dimed) were written by individuals who had the experience did as a journalistic stunt. While these reports may be compelling, they are not representative of the communities whose lived experiences have in fact been shaped by a federal minimum wage that has not increased in more than a decade.

For a comprehensive, impartial overview of the potential impact of a $ 15 minimum wage, see this guide from the Economic Policy Institute.