The Fissured Workplace: Why Work Became So Bad for So Many and What Can Be Done to Improve It, by David Weil. Published February 2014.

Soon after Fissured Workplace dropped, Weil became the Administrator for the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. That makes him the chief enforcer for making sure people get paid what they’re owed.

Based on what we’ve read so far, writing this book seems to have been ideal preparation for Weil’s current job. “Fissured” refers to the now-established practice of corporations franchising, sub-contracting, and otherwise outsourcing as much work as possible to far smaller contractors, including individuals.

While this creates tremendous efficiencies for the lead firm, contractor margins tend to be successively thinner the further down the food chain they live – forcing them to cut corners to survive. Not surprisingly, workers take much of the brunt of those shortcuts.

This complex structure also makes enforcement more difficult. Going after the violators – the contractors – just results in those small firms going out of business, possibly to pop up later with a different name. Little is accomplished through this enforcement version of “whack-a-mole.”

What’s needed, Weil says, is a thorough understanding of the contractual relationships that make up the company’s products and services, and making the behavior of all the entities reflect on the reputation of the lead firm.

To HourVoice, this is encouraging, because we’ve been working pretty much dead center on this approach. It’s comforting that someone far smarter than us is confirming our ill-informed intuition.