America is witnessing a retirement crisis. As the labor market shifts to the gig economy and new strains restrict social security, the American Dream of secure retirement becomes further out of reach for up to half of the population. In Waiting on Retirement, Mary Gatta takes the case of restaurant workers to examine the experiences of low-wage workers who are middle-aged, aging, and past retirement age. She deftly explores the many factors shaping what it means to grow old in economic insecurity as her subjects face race- and gender-based inequities, health hazards associated with their work, and the bitter reality that the older they get the fewer professional opportunities are available to them. More importantly, Gatta demonstrates that these problems are pervasive, as more industries adopt the worst workplace practices of service work. In light of these trends, we must consider the devastating effects on already vulnerable Americans because, as Gatta contends, this crisis does not need to be inevitable. Taking as a model the small percentage of "good" restaurant jobs that exist, she ultimately offers incisive commentary on what can be done to stave off this bleak future.
About the author
Mary Gatta is Associate Professor of Sociology at the City University of New York: Stella and Charles Guttman Community College.
"Mary Gatta provides an important look at how the current—and future—retirement crisis affects some of the country's most vulnerable workers. Her research should inspire academics, activists, and policy makers to address the large segment of the workforce that is unable to sustain themselves at the end of their working years."
—Deborah Harris, Texas State University
"Mary Gatta's new book is a timely and necessary addition to the literature on restaurant workers. A career for millions of Americans, the industry does not ensure the economic security of its workforce. Gatta gives voice to the people who have devoted their lives to restaurant work, providing a much-needed warning call for the country and addressing the steps we must take to ensure a better future."
—Teófilo Reyes, UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy and Restaurant Opportunities Centers United
"An intimate account of the startling impacts of the restaurant industry's precarious conditions. Women in particular have been subject to a wage structure that creates economic volatility, perpetuates harassment, and offers a blurry image of their future. In this groundbreaking historical moment, Mary Gatta provides a timely call to action, stressing that we need one fair wage and long-term economic security."
—Saru Jayaraman, author of Forked: A New Standard for American Dining
"Sociologist Gatta has provided a compassionate, clearly written, and jargon-free account of the difficult situation of American low-wage restaurant workers who do not retire, because they cannot afford to...She displays their nuanced situation without condescension or blame. Recommended."
—R. R. Shield, CHOICE