“For three years, Bruder traveled and worked alongside “workampers,” older people, casualties of the Great Recession, who drive around the United States looking for seasonal work.”
Featured in New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2017.
American employers have tapped into a new workforce across the length and breadth of the United States – from Texas and Amazon’s Camperforce to North Dakota and its beet fields to California and the campgrounds of the National Forest. This low-cost and novel workforce is composed of American retirees who live life as transients. With social security proving inadequate and mortgages pushing them under, these Americans have turned to a life on the road in their campers, RVs, and travel trailers. In the process they have created a community of itinerants, calling themselves ‘workampers’.
Jessica Bruder explores the routes that link seasonal jobs and are well-traveled to meet with people who come from different walks of life – a minister, a former professor, a motorcycle cop and even a former vice-president of McDonald’s. Standing out amongst these personalities is former Home Depot clerk and cocktail waitress Linda May, Bruder’s protagonist.
Bruder uses her second-hand vehicle christened Van Halen to go on the road and familiarize herself intimately with her subjects. She accompanies Linda May among others to warehouse product scannings, campground toilet cleanings, desert reunions and the risky beet harvesting. Through this work Bruder exposes the American economy’s dark underbelly in a tale that is both compelling and eye-opening, giving a glimpse into a future that may await many of us. Nevertheless, she lionizes the creativity and resilience these people have shown in giving up a rooted life and the hope with which they look forward to the future.