February 2002, Vol. 125, No. 2
Book reviews from past issues
Latino Workers in the Contemporary South. Edited by Arthur D. Murphy, Colleen Blanchard, and Jennifer A. Hill. Athens, GA, University of Georgia Press. Southern Anthropological Society, 2001, 139 pp. $20, softcover; $40, cloth.
Latino Workers in the Contemporary South is a collection of essays that discusses the recent influx of Latino immigrants in the southeastern region of the United States. The authors explain the trajectory of immigrants in the United States and how their destinations are no longer limited to traditional places like metropolitan areas. The essays focus on rural communities in Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida, where immigrant populations have been growing rapidly.
The text holds interesting discussions of immigrant experiences, including their families being more inclined to immigrate as the Mexican economy worsens (the authors focus on Mexican immigrants, whom they deem as the largest group in the South), their diaspora, language barriers, and economic hardships.
Official data are used to document immigrants’ increasingly stable presence in the South. The text is well substantiated with data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and other sources such as public school enrollment records.
In light of the fact that limited amounts of official data are available, the authors supplement these data with findings from their own surveys to discuss immigrants living in smaller geographic areas. Although their survey samples are small, they state their methodologies upfront, and the surveys do shed light on the phenomenon of immigrants’ increasing presence in the South. The authors use their findings to study the undercount of immigrants in official data, reasons for immigrant influx in the South, and immigrants "settling out" of agriculture.
Possible contributors to the undercount of immigrants in official estimates are explained—the trajectory of immigrants, their moving around the country to find seasonal employment, and border-crossing. The authors propose that temporary housing arrangements may also be a factor in the undercount. Immigrants surveyed in south Florida were found to be living in crowded, low-rent housing. Many lived in households with several adults, and nuclear families temporarily hosted newly arrived relatives.
The authors attribute the influx of immigrants in the South to the rapid economic growth that has occurred in the region in recent decades. Globalization and rising demand in the poultry industry have fueled the industry’s growth in northern Georgia and provided resultant work opportunities there for immigrants. Ron Hetrick’s June 1994 Monthly Labor Review article is used to document the strong job growth that has occurred in the poultry processing industry and to highlight the fact that the industry has hired more workers to meet increasing demands because labor is relatively cheaper than capital improvement.
The book describes two other examples to show how rapidly growing industries have brought immigrant labor to the South: high economic volatility requires southern Louisiana’s onshore oil industry to obtain low-skilled peripheral labor, and Dalton, home of Georgia’s high-growth carpet industry, needs immigrants to fill positions native residents cannot in a tight labor market. Employers of semi-skilled workers, such as construction and landscaping businesses, also provide work opportunities to immigrants in the South.
The authors explain that industries’ heightened demands for cheap, unskilled labor have drawn immigrants to rural southern areas like those of northern Georgia. Using population estimates from the 1990 and 2000 decennial censuses, one can verify that the Hispanic population in northern Georgia’s poultry-processing region has grown. Decennial census data show that in 2000 the Hispanic population in Forsyth County, Georgia, was more than eight times what it was in 1990. In neighboring Hall County, the Hispanic population in 2000 was about six times as large as it was in 1990.
Another trend examined is immigrants’ "settling out" of agriculture to find more permanent, year-round employment to support their families (who have been more inclined to immigrate as Mexico’s economy has weakened). In addition to their most frequently cited needs—employment, healthcare, and housing—immigrants report that learning English is the key factor in overcoming other hardships they face when they "settle out." Immigrant parents regard education as the key to their children’s better future.
It seems that the authors present evidence of immigrants’ increasingly stable presence in the South for a purpose— because of the undercount of immigrants, we are unable to attend to their needs.
Another concern is that U.S. immigration laws have not prevented illegal immigration but have instead affected the price and condition of immigrant labor. For instance, some U.S. employers recruit illegal workers who are willing to forgo legal amenities.
In a comparative essay on illegal Latino migrants to the U.S. South and Germany’s "guest workers," the authors suggest that a German-like guest-worker program in the United States might stem illegal immigration. They propose that countries that import labor or export workers develop viable and fair policies on international labor immigration, because with globalization, immigration should continue.
Office of Employment and
Bureau of Labor Statistics
Emerging Trends for EAPs in the 21st Century. Edited by N. Van Den Bergh. New York, The Haworth Press, Inc., 2000, 145 pp.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are an important component of workforce development and quality of worklife interventions in contemporary organizational environments, providing much-needed clinical and nonclinical interventions with organizational employees. EAPs were rapidly introduced within workplaces during the 1980s, and became a mainstay of many organizations during the 1990s, concomitant with workforce trends including downsizing and changing workforce demographics (for example, aging and more diverse employees). EAPs have been a frequent source of support for employees in personal flux and organizational crisis, and their mission continues to evolve to accommodate unanticipated socio-economic trends affecting the workplace.
This edited collection of seven predominantly theoretical and position papers capture the scope of contemporary EAP practice within varied work environments, provide a blueprint for future practice, and define a vision to meet ever-changing demands of the EAP client base, namely, workforce employees. A review of contributors’ biographies for this highly readable volume indicates that all are highly credentialed professionals who work or teach in the EAP field.
In the introductory article, the volume editor sets the context for EAPs, delineates their history and mission, and charts a directed course for their future. Citing numerous workplace trends that have increased workers’ duress relative to their worklife (for example, downsizing, rightsizing, mergers, globalization, and acquisitions, and so forth), she proposes that the organization as a whole is an EAP "client." This perspective affords a wider context to implement beneficial organizational strategies, policies, and programs, while retaining an important focus on personal gains made by individual employees.
Two papers focus on how EAPs can meet the needs of changing workforce segments, specifically, female and older employees. Because female employees are often caregivers to family members, they are particularly susceptible to experiencing significant stress due to the competing demands of balancing worklife with dependent care responsibilities. Hoffman’s position paper describes how EAPs can coordinate dependent care for employees within the context of their work and offer what may be the sole source of support and respite for these caregivers. Similarly, Perkin’s paper describes a "strengths-based" model EAPs can apply when providing pre-retirement and other services to older employees. Emphasizing positive client attributes and a proactive working relationship between employee and EAP service provider, the model focuses on preventing long-term complications for older employees, while prescribing continuous short-term interventions to address ongoing or prescient client needs and personal goals.
Work/family programs and EAPs sometimes co-exist, albeit not always effectively, within a single organization. They may function independently, and even be at odds, due to "turf" considerations. While EAPs were created to keep employees on the job who are functioning at a sub-par level, work/family programs generally help working mothers meet childcare demands. Herlihy delineates a plan for how both services can be integrated to provide seamless and effective support for employees facing a multitude of personal and professional crises.
Unfortunately, recent events make Plaggemars’ paper on applying "critical incident stress debriefing (CISD)" to current workplaces acutely relevant and compelling. CISD addresses employee reactions to severe and traumatic workplace events such as employee suicide, homicide, and departmental restructuring, by facilitating employees’ ability to process traumatizing events so they can continue to function successfully in the workforce. Needless to say, CISD could be applied in workplaces currently affected by terrorism.
EAPs provide services for downsized employees (that is, "survivors") and Worster proscribes a "systems approach" to address significant ripple effects stemming from organizational downsizing. This approach strives to help downsized employees and facilitate the transformation of the altered corporate culture after downsizing. Interestingly, he advises CISD be used to help downsized employees cope with their feelings after being downsized. This paper also illustrates how downsizing and other traumatic workforce events can result in workplace violence.
The final paper repositions EAPs within the context of a new, far-reaching organizational role, that of organizational development consultant. Although this "paradigm shift" may invite skepticism from organizational higher-ups, Beard presents seven case studies where EAPs applied team-building, "coaching," and consultation techniques to improve system-wide functioning, increase workplace productivity, promote worker satisfaction, and cultivate a healthy climate for professional development. Impressive anecdotal evidence substantiates the thesis that EAPs functioning as organizational consultants can promote satisfying and rewarding workplace environments and contribute to greater success for the entire organization.
—Sylvia Kay Fisher
Office of Survey Methods Research,
Bureau of Labor Statistics
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