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Vicki Smith University of California, Davis, USA

Vicki Smith is professor of sociology at the University of California, Davis. She received her B.A. in sociology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1987. For her first major research project, her dissertation, she analyzed the transformation of middle management at the Bank of America, at the time (mid-1980s) the most powerful bank in the world. Interested in middle managers’ labor process, Smith looked at how managers’ experiences varied by organizational context and how their perceptions were conditioned by moving from the stable employment and organizational conditions of the postwar era, to the turbulent and unpredictable conditions of the late 20th century. The book that resulted from this project—Managing in the Corporate Interest: Control and Resistance in an American Bank (1990)—stands as one of the few on-the-ground field studies of the corporate restructuring processes that have swept through the American economy over the last 30 years.

Smith followed up by conducting research on how other groups of American workers were affected by corporate restructuring, including the spread of subcontracting and outsourcing, the increased use of temporary workers, and the erosion of the stable employment contract. Her case study analyses of workers in three diverse industrial/work settings, along with a group of unemployed professional workers, was published in Crossing the Great Divide: Worker Risk and Opportunity in the New Economy (2001), a book that has shaped the debate over how jobs and employment relations have changed with respect to implications for American workers. It was awarded the 2002 Distinguished Publication Award by the Labor Studies Division of the Society for the Study of Social Problems.

With Esther Neuwirth, Smith co-authored The Good Temp (2008), a study of the historical marketing of the idea of good temporary workers, and of the ways in which temporary help agencies endeavor to produce reliable and high-quality temporary employees. She has published a host of articles on work and employment in Social Problems, Work and Occupations, and Human Relations, and in various edited volumes. She edited a special issue of Research in the Sociology of Work on worker participation, co-edited a special issue of Human Relations on workers, risk, and the new economy, and is co-editing a special issue of Academy of Management Review on theories of work and working. Before attending graduate school, Smith held many different types of jobs, including working full-time as a bagel roller and baker (and manager) for several years, and part-time as a waitress, short-order cook, dishwasher, housecleaner, hotel maid, deli worker, office assistant, retail sales person, childcare worker, home health care worker, library staff person, and assorted other positions.