Accepted paper:

The Part-Timing of Work in a U.S. Superstore


Laura Mebert (Kettering University)

Paper short abstract:

As employers cut labor costs by making their workforces more "flexible", the part-timing of retail work has serious consequences for those who depend on the job for their livelihoods. This paper will examine the way in which part-timing has affected workers' lives and the social world at work.

Paper long abstract:

This paper is based on fieldwork among retail workers at a large superstore in the deindustrialized U.S. town of Flint, Michigan. Following the relocation of manufacturing to cheaper labor markets, retail work has become one of the few jobs available to people in Flint who may not come to the job market with a degree in hand, or who are unable to secure a "better" job because of competition from high rates of unemployment. When a large retail chain that historically offered full-time positions opted recently to cut costs by switching to a more "flexible", all-part-time model, the consequences for workers have been significant: workplace community became fragmented, workers' household structures changed, and they became forced to depend on the increasingly sparse remnants of the U.S. welfare state.

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Current challenges of anthropology of work