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The pandemic has drawn renewed attention to the issue of working time. The boundaries between home and work have blurred. The spread of the virus has made forced overtime more common as workers subbed in for their sick colleagues. But even before COVID-19, working time was a key issue for workers organizing in many sectors; not long ago, the demand for shorter working hours was a central focus of the labor movement.
Controlling our time at work is not just a matter of getting paid fairly for time on the clock. In our globalized, technology- and automation-driven economy, work tends to consume more and more of our lives, exposing us to intensifying stress, draining our energy for other social needs and pursuits in life, and coming at the expense of our families, communities, and civic institutions. The pandemic has put those issues into even sharper relief, as we increasingly question whether the time we spend at work is worth what we’re being paid, worth the physical and psychological stress, and worth risking our lives.
In a live episode of Belabored recorded at Labor Notes, we asked workers from several sectors about the fight to control their time and whether labor should renew its focus on “reclaiming our time” as a strategy.
Our guests are:
Donna Jo Marks, a member of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union at Nabisco, helped get legislation passed in Oregon that restricts employers from imposing overtime on workers without five days notice.
Carlos Perez, a teacher in Durham, North Carolina, organized for “Falcon Wednesdays”: days with lightened teaching and learning loads for teachers and students.
Jessica Wender-Shubow is president of the Brookline Educators Union, a local of the Massachusetts Teachers Association. Brookline teachers went on strike recently over issues including class and prep time for teachers.
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Dan DiMaggio, Nabisco Workers Hope Strike Inspires Others: ‘There’s More of Us than There Are of Them’, Labor Notes
Stephen Franklin, “We Are Emptying Out Their Shelves”: Nabisco Workers’ 5-Week Strike Won by Shutting Down Business as Usual, In These Times
Mark A. Crabtree, Oregon Revises Overtime Laws for Bakers and Farmworkers, National Law Review
Rebecca Schneid, With Wellness Wednesdays, Durham schools tune into student health, 9th Street Journal
Meg Woolhouse, Brookline teachers’ strike ends after one day, GPH
Michelle Chen, Amazon Expects Its Employees to Operate Like Fast-Moving Machines. This Amazon Picker Is Fighting Back., In These Times
Spring Break’s Cleanup Crew, Slate
Sarah Jaffe, The Four-Day Work Week—Not Just a Daydream, The Progressive
The big idea: should we work less?, The Guardian