The desktop computer has transformed office work. Business and social forecasters claimed that the use of video display terminals (VDTs) in the “Office of the Future” would free workers from routine tasks, giving them more time for creative work and chances for career advancement. Office Politics argues that, for many VDT workers––most of whom are nonunionized women in low-paying, dead-end jobs––exactly the opposite has been true. VDTs have been used to routinize office tasks; export work via satellite to low-wage, nonunion offshore offices; to de-skill workers and monitor their productivity. And the nature of the work has led to widespread health and safety problems, including vision, musculoskeletal (repetitive motion), and stress-related illnesses. Many have also charged that the electromagnetic fields (EMFs) emitted by computer terminals are responsible for miscarriages, for birth defects, and for promoting cancer.
As office workers sought to protect themselves against these new occupational health and safety problems, they found little help from organized labor, business, or the government. Office Politics is the first book to explain why. It shows how corporate interests successfully redefined the VDT health and safety crisis as a “comfort” problem, how the government refused to collect data on the true scope of VDT-related illnesses or to regulate Information Age industries, and how labor unions ignored women workers.
Office Politics is key reading for everyone who works at a computer. It will be of special interest to students, academics, and professionals in political science, sociology, occupational and environmental health, business, labor and management issues, women’s studies, computing, and public policy.