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Excess Baggage: Leveling the Load and Changing the Workplace
Ellen Rosskam
Critical Approaches in the Health Social Sciences Series, Series Editor: Ray H. Elling

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“Rosskam’s study of the airport check-in industry provides an excellent example of workers participating in work arrangements that eventually lead to the disappearance of their own jobs and security. She also helps us see that it is more than repetitive motion that leads to workrelated musculoskeletal disorders: the organization of work itself, including the lack of worker empowerment, helps create the huge musculoskeletal health toll. With work being reorganized on a global scale, it is important to understand the health implications of the new world of work. Rosskam has a good direct style of writing and her analysis is authoritative.”
— Jeanne Mager Stellman, Ph.D., Professor, Columbia University

Excess Baggage takes a rare look at how economic insecurity, so characteristic of globalization, impinges on the health and functional capacities of workers under stress. Similar strains are occurring in many groups of workers all over the world. We must fight this insecurity.”
—Guy Standing, Ph.D., Former Director, Socio-Economic Security Programme, International Labour Office, Geneva, Professor, University of Bath

“This book is interesting and timely. It carries some messages that are important to managers. In some places, tears came to my eyes as I read, and I really felt the pain of the workers. One of the charms of the book is that it makes us aware of an invisible group that many of us frequently deal with. The plea for participatory work organization and enhanced and more respectful training is eloquent.”
—Karen Messing, Ph.D., Professor, University of Québec at Montréal

“The description of “dehumanizing” managers, how to recognize destructive personality types in the workplace, and what to do about them is important not only for Human Resource Directors, but for everyone from CEOs to the newest employee.:
—Joanne Aliber, M.B.A., Senior Product Manager, Tom Tom, Inc.

“This book is the first internationally comparative examination of the working conditions of airport check-in workers. Among other findings, it reveals a serious loss of work time and productivity and—most importantly—presents a dramatic picture of pain among this group of workers, which affects their lives beyond the workplace. As Rosskam shows, check-in work, which operates under management policies based on high demand but low worker control, can have considerable adverse effects on workers. This book should be mandatory reading for both industry management and trade unions, to reformulate check-in working policies in order to provide healthier and safer workstations.”
—Ingo Marowsky, ITF Aviation Secretary

"In my view, the work summarized in this book provides a kind of best-practice model of how occupational public health research with a direct policy impact should be performed."
—Professor Johannes Siegrist, University of Düesseldorf, Germany

"This study and the resulting preventive steps taken is an excellent example of the precautionary principle in action. Rosskam and her team's pioneering work has led to some primary prevention actions in this industry, with, hopefully, more to come."
—Marianne Brown, Former Director of the UCLA Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Program, Institute for Industrial Relations

Based on groundbreaking research on the working conditions of airport check-in workers in two countries, a previously unstudied category of predominantly women workers, Ellen Rosskam describes a form of work characterized as modern-day Taylorism. An occupation greatly affected by new forms of work organization and management practices-caught in the throes of rapid change due to international competition, alliances, mergers, and the application of cost-efficiency strategies-check-in work has been undermined in recent years by the adverse effects of liberalization and technological change. By peeling away the veneer of glamour associated with airport check-in work, Rosskam reveals how changes in work organization in this sector have de-skilled, disempowered, and ultimately demoralized workers. In Excess Baggage, weaving through the psychological distress, physical pain from musculoskeletal disorders, strain, and violence that check-in workers experience and describe in their own words, a picture emerges of a job perceived to be "safe," "clean," "glamour girl" work, but which is comparable to industrial workplaces that require heavy manual lifting, obligingly performed in skirts, dresses, and pretty little shoes.

Rosskam describes the widespread insecurity that affects check-in workers, linked to structural and cultural hegemony, modern management practices, and modern management myths. Through her pioneering research, she provides valuable information on the untold hazards associated with various service sector jobs, largely performed by women. These are jobs known to produce increased job strain that manifests as heart disease, psychological distress, musculoskeletal disorders, depression, burnout, and other physical and psychological health effects. By applying an action-oriented approach, Excess Baggage makes a convincing case for taking a holistic approach to viewing jobs, considering them as "entire work systems" and not merely as a series of individual factors. Rosskam makes an eloquent plea for involving workers in organizational decision-making and a convincing case for using the collective voice as a critical key for improving working conditions.

An expert in her field, Rosskam demonstrates the way in which destructive and disempowering management practices have direct adverse consequences for workers' health, well-being, and performance on the job. She describes the insidious role of "dehumanizing" managers-undergoing a disturbing proliferation in today's workplaces-in undermining workers' health, and the effects this has on an organization's "bottom line." The behavioral and personality characteristics of perverse individuals in the workplace are presented, followed by recommendations for organizational change.

Intended Audience: Senior-level decision-makers in organizations and companies serious about maximizing the potential of their workers; managers at the highest levels seeking insight into the adverse effects and costs of work-induced stress and musculoskeletal disorders on the organization's "bottom line" and seeking measures to address these problems; a valuable read for CEOs, human resource directors, management consultants, academics, researchers, and workers.


Ellen Rosskam is Visiting Professor at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, Work Environment Department, Visiting Senior Fellow at the University of Surrey, European Institute of Health and Medical Sciences, England, and is faculty member for Boston University School of Public Health, International Honors program, teaching Globalization and Health in Boston, USA, Beijing, China and Capetown, South Africa. An international public health and social protection specialist with 25 years of experience, including 14 years as a specialist at the International Labour Office, Geneva, Switzerland, Rosskam has developed social policy recommendations related to workers’ health for more than 100 countries, advised governments, led global research, and pioneered work on HIV/AIDS and the workplace. She is the author of 50 scientific publications.

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Excess Baggage: Leveling the Load and Changing the Workplace

Author: Ellen Rosskam
Cloth ISBN:
Page Count: 288
Copyright: 2007

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