On the Clock: Book summary and reviews of On the Clock by Emily Guendelsberger

On the Clock

What Low-Wage Work Did to Me and How It Drives America Insane

by Emily Guendelsberger

On the Clock by Emily Guendelsberger X
On the Clock by Emily Guendelsberger
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About this book

Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"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

"An eye-opening, unrelenting exposé that uncovers the brutal wages of modern global capitalism. A natural choice for fans of Nickel and Dimed." - Kirkus Reviews

"Guendelsberger's journey 'in the weeds' of low-wage America is mordantly funny, devastating and rigorous, a broadside against the exploitation of the many by the few and a warning of how easily our sociopathic economy could all come crashing down, leaving even C-suite executives to subsist on ketchup packets and worthless stock options." - Jessica Bruder, author of Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

"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

"On The Clock is a bracing, revealing tour through realms of the low-wage economy that remain invisible to too many Americans. Emily Guendelsberger is a compelling guide into this world, recounting her experiences in prose that is both barbed and appealing. On The Clock is the Nickel and Dimed for our even more harried and dehumanizing times." - Alec MacGillis, author of The Cynic: The Political Education of Mitch McConnell

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Author Information

Emily Guendelsberger

Emily Guendelsberger has worked at Philadelphia City Paper, the Onion's A.V. Club, Philadelphia Weekly, and the Philadelphia Daily News, and has contributed to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington Post, Politico magazine, and Vice.

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