I’ve been talking to the new working class — people who overwhelmingly work in America’s ever-expanding service sector — as part of the research for my new book,Sleeping Giant. Unlike the previous industrial-based working class, today’s home health workers, janitors, retail salespeople and fast-food clerks are more female and more racially diverse — and they mostly clock into jobs without the support or protection of a labor union.
As manufacturing jobs got shipped overseas, the working class shifted from “making stuff” to “serving people.” The longstanding “others” in our society — women and people of color — became a much larger share of the non-college-educated workforce. Their marginalized status in our society carried over into the working class, making it easier to overlook and devalue their contribution.
But today’s working class is no longer sitting on the sidelines. Through movements including The Fightfor15 and Black Lives Matter, this new working class has reignited a debate about economic and racial inequality. Winning minimum wage increases in 15 states in just two short years is only one example of how the working class is shaking up politics as usual.