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PORTSIDELABOR  April 2012, Week 2

PORTSIDELABOR April 2012, Week 2

Subject:

Working Longer and Enjoying It Less?

From:

Portside Labor <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Tue, 10 Apr 2012 20:57:49 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (116 lines)

Working Longer and Enjoying It Less?
By Tom Suhrbur
Talking Union
April 9, 2012
http://talkingunion.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/working-
longer-and-enjoying-it-less/

"Eight hours of work, eight hours of rest and eight
hours to do what we think best"
Eight-Hour Day Slogan (circa 1890)

In the 19th century, the workweek was 60 to 72 hours
Monday through Saturday with Sunday off. The fight
for the eight-hour day has been a rallying call for
the working class since the early day of the union
movement. An American Federation of Labor pamphlet
in 1899 stated: "Rest cultivates, drudgery brutalizes."

While a shorter workday was viewed as a cure for
unemployment, low wages and a host of social ills,
it also meant more leisure time to enjoy life. It
meant more time for one's family. Shorter hours would
also provide workers time for personal development to
pursue their talents in art, music and other endeavors.

After a century of struggle, the eight-hour day and
40 hour week was generally realized for workers in
1938 with the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act
(FLSA). This was one of the greatest achievements of
the labor movement. Even though the FLSA that provided
40 hour week and overtime pay is still intact today,
the intent of the law has been seriously undermined
over the last 30 years.

The loss of millions of manufacturing jobs to low wage
nations as a result of free trade, the aggressive
campaign against unions and the ever increasing
reliance on part-time and temporary employment have
undermined wages in the U.S. The declining standard of
living of the working families has forced many workers
to take second and even third jobs to make ends meet.
In effect, many wage earners are working more than the
standard eight-hour day, 40 hour week.

Are the days gone when a factory worker could support
seven children on one income, own a home, feed and
cloth the family, own a car, take the family on a
vacation each year, have full-paid family health
insurance and a decent retirement? My father did!
But part-time and full-time temporary jobs are now
19.3% of the U.S. employment.

Many wage earners cannot even find full-time employment
today. Instead, they are trying to eke a living by
working just part-time and temporary full-time jobs.
This is especially true in higher education.
Unemployment in December was 8.5% but "under
employment" is not reported as being unemployed.

Millions of other unemployed workers have stopped
searching for jobs. They too are not reported in the
8.5% rate. A family member of mine is under employed.
He has been working numerous temporary full-time and
part-time jobs since 2009 making about $25,000
annually. He has an MS in Natural Sciences. He puts in
about 50 to 60 hours per week. One of his jobs for the
past two years is full-time but only for nine months
with no health insurance, sick leave or other benefits.
He does substitute teaching. He works Saturday as a
docent at a county conservation district and tutors in
the evenings at a private tutoring company. He cannot
find a full-time job but is not unemployed.

Besides low wages, a major incentive for hiring
part-time and temporary workers is the high cost of
private health insurance. All of the developed nations
have national health care systems that shift the cost
of health care from private employers to the general
public through taxation.

In the U.S., individual employers must purchase health
insurance for themselves and, if they choose, for their
employees. Our private for profit health care system is
the costliest in the world in terms its share of the
gross national product. Yet, more than 50 million
Americans have no health insurance. Decent health
insurance coverage cost at least $10,000 for an
individual and much more for family coverage.
Many employers have opted out of full-time employment
for this reason alone.

Tom Suhrbur recently retired after 26 years as a
union organizer for the Illinois Education Association.
He is currently
the Vice-President of the Illinois Labor History
Society. This post originally appeared in the Chicago
DSA newletter New Ground.

____________________________________________

PortsideLabor aims to provide material of interest to
people on the left that will help them to interpret the
world and to change it.

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