Difference That Matter

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Critical Book Review
Differences that Matter is a critical policy analysis, examining how social and labour policies in the United States and Canada affect the work and life experiences of individuals employed in the hotel industry in Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia. Zuberi compares the two cities because they are considered “twin cities”. Using surveys and in depth interviews to examine the lives of employees working in house- keeping, maintenance engineering, and guest services departments of unionized and non-unionized Globe Hotel, and Hotel Deluxe. In Zuberi’s research, poverty seems to be a reoccurring topic in the lives of the hotel employees in Seattle and Vancouver. The use of resourceful charts allows him to further examine the effect of health care, union, social welfare, and public investments, when proving the result that national differences have on the experiences and lives of the employees. The use of a cross-national examination helped Zuberi discover that Canadian working poor live healthier lives than Seattle working poor employees, and these comparisons provide evidence for a newer outlook on Canadian working conditions compared to those in the United States. Zuberi favoured unionization in workplaces because union membership leads to improved job benefits, job security, safer working conditions and ultimately a higher quality of life for employees. This notion of the “quality of life” is a central component in Zuberi’s book and is revealed when he states, “the evidence is clear that unionization, in general, improves the work experience and lives of hourly employees in the hotel industry in both Seattle and Vancouver” Figure 4.1 provides the earnings of hotel employees in both unionized and non-unionized hotels; in Vancouver there is only a slight difference between the earnings of $0.10, however in Seattle the difference is approximately $2.00 higher when being in a unionized hotel. This chart stimulates the question,...
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