Thursday, August 30, 2007

Tales from the Lazy Acre

According to Forbes Magazine, American workers on average are becoming lazier as compared to the rest of the world. It appears that we are working fewer hours per week than many of our global competitors.

(Fortune Magazine) -- We Americans pride ourselves on being a hard-working bunch, so here's a thought to spoil your Labor Day rest: By global standards, we're lazy. We've been getting lazier. And the days of the American dolce vita may be numbered.

The surprising report of our relative sloth arrives in new research from the UN's International Labor Organization, which looks at working hours around the world. When it comes to what we might call hard work, meaning the proportion of workers who put in more than 48 hours a week, America is near the bottom of the heap. About 18% of our employed people work that much.

That's a higher proportion than in a few other developed countries like Norway, the Netherlands, and even Japan. But it's actually lower than in Switzerland and Britain, and way lower than in developing countries like Mexico and Thailand. It's drastically lower than in what may be the world's two hardest-working countries, South Korea and Peru, where the proportions are about 50%.[1]

American workers should be ashamed of themselves. How are we going to compete in the global marketplace working less than 48 hours a week? The corporate bosses want you to know that if you don’t increase your hours, they will take their jobs elsewhere. Once again the corporations are using fear tactics to try and coerce the American work force. As if the reason our jobs are being out-sourced is because we are not working hard enough. How is it that every work force study states that productivity is up in America, fewer workers are doing more work. Now instead of doing the work of 2 or 3 workers, we now need you to do the work of 4 people, you don’t mind do you?

It kills me how these guys can interpret the results of this study to take a swipe at the American worker. What this study shows is that we are getting more done with fewer people working fewer hours, it’s no wonder the stress levels of the average worker is through the roof. Increased working hours can create family problems, dissatisfaction, and increased absence. What was not reported in this article was that Americans work on average 70 more hours than the Japanese and 350 more hours than the Europeans.

Why not talk about how it is the corporations who are limiting the overtime to save labor costs. According to a study done by Cornell University 46% of workers want to put in more overtime than they currently are.[2] Many workers want to work overtime due to job insecurity and financial strain. Many workers feel that if they work overtime in the event of a downsize they will be less likely to be let go. There is also the pressure of making ends meet. Because wages have to a large degree flat-lined, for many workers the only way to keep pace with their living expenses is to work increased hours. There are many workers who are not being paid an overtime rate who are still seeking extra hours. So it isn’t that American workers are not working enough or willing to work, so then what could it be? What could be behind this article in Forbes?

My guess is to scare American workers to accept less and work more. It is a plot to discourage workers from organizing, especially now that discussions are being held in the Congress on the Employee Free Choice Act. Corporate bosses and apologists have been using the outsourcing card for some time to extricate concessions from workers and in every case the outsourcing still took place, because no matter what American workers are willing to give up it will never match what the foreign labor markets are giving. How can we match a country where the median daily income is 2 dollars a day?

I want to see the survey that compares the working hours and compensation of American CEOs against their foreign counterparts. Let’s see who really needs to be working more hours for their pay. I haven’t heard of Forbes publishing that study on CEOs and I probably never will.

The problem is not that the American workers are not working hard enough or long enough, it is that the corporations are taking too much of the profits from their hard work. There are some fundamental problems with the capital allocation system in America and unless we correct it soon, it won’t matter how hard or how long any of us work. Workers in America must be given the opportunity to unite and organize; we will only be able to defend our rights through collective bargaining. The corporations will not defend the rights of the workers, they never have and they never will. Their goal is to get as much work for the cheapest labor and they have shown in the past that they will try to achieve this goal by any means. The welfare of the American worker is not one of their goals.

So listen up all you lazy Americans, let your Congress people know that you support the right of workers to organize freely and without undue management pressure. Support the Employee Free Choice Act, so that with the stroke of a pen even us lazy Americans can get organized.



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