Shorter Work-Time News

ISSUE #10 -- November 15, 1996

The Shorter Work-Time Group (SWTGp) believes that overwork is a broad social problem in the U.S. today which affects both women and men, of all races, backgrounds, and income levels. Overwork harms our personal, family and community lives and the workplace. It leads to too much work for some, underemployment or unemployment for others. We believe that both women and men will benefit from working less and having more control over their time, if such policies also provide decent wages and benefits. We support shorter work hours, better leave and vacation policies, and more flexible scheduling that meets workers' needs, and encourage public education, legislation, collective bargaining, and business and community initiatives that will enable American workers to work less without suffering financially.

The Shorter Work-Time Group is a grassroots non-profit project founded in 1989 by Women for Economic Justice. We are now a project of the Commonwealth Foundation. Our activities include public education, newsletter and publications, speakers' bureau, organizing local chapters, and policy analysis. SWTGp Advisory Board: Roz Feldberg, Mary Jo Hetzel, Linda Johnson, Barbara Neely, Laurie Sheridan, Terri Small-Turner, and Laurie Taymor-Berry. Staffperson: Barbara Brandt. The SWTGp is a member of the North American Network for Shorter Hours of Work (NANSHOW). Please write to us at:
Shorter Work-Time Group, c/o 69 Dover St., #1,
Somerville, MA 02144, USA, (617) 628-5558

FROM THE EDITOR: In our last issue of Shorter Work-Time News (January 31, 1996), we announced the Conference "Our Time Famine," to be held at the U. of Iowa last March. We waited this long to report on that Conference because follow-up reports are still coming in, as described below. If you attended that Conference and it inspired you to further shorter work-time activities, tell us about it.

This Newsletter also reflects that ongoing paradox of the 90s--on the one hand, many things are getting worse; but at the same time, more people are recognizing our serious problems, exploring their deeper causes, and working together to develop systemic, multi-faceted solutions. So this Issue #10 presents both bad news and hopeful good news. Keep the faith--and keep in touch.

(Editor: Barbara Brandt, with thanks to David Gould, Robert Bernstein, Larry Gaffin, Brad Lorton, Sarah Ryan, Elle Leary, Tom Laney, Francine Hunnicutt, Peg Moran, Debbie Field, Roch Randon, and Linda and Richard Swenson.)


March 8-10, 1996: The first national Conference in recent years on the issue of shorter work-time was held at the University of Iowa, hosted by Iowa Leisure Studies Professor Benjamin K. Hunnicutt (author of Work Without End) and departmental colleague David Gould. 150 people, most from the U.S., a few from Canada and Europe, attended lectures and explored issues and possible solutions in both formal and informal sessions. "The Overworked American" of the 1990s was brought to widespread public attention by Juliet Schor in her book of that name, and this conference finally brought many prominent shorter work-time advocates of the 1990s together in the same place.

Speakers included Hunnicutt, Schor, Jeremy Rifkin (The End of Work), founder (Iowa conference report, continued) of the modern feminist movement Betty Friedan, former U.S. Senator and Presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy, Vicki Robin (Your Money or Your Life), Stanley Aronowitz (The Jobless Future), Arlie Hochschild (Second Shift), Ellen Galinsky of Families and Work Institute, Jerry Tucker of UAW-New Directions Movement, Lynn Jamieson Canada's Task Team on Working Time, Bruce O'Hara of the Canadian Shorter WorkTime Network, Barbara Brandt of the Shorter Work-Time Group, Deborah Holmes of Catalyst, and other academicians and activists. Topics included economic, social, political, labor, family, women's, health, community, and spiritual dimensions of the problem of rising work hours and lack of time, especially as they affect U.S. society.

Outcomes of the Conference included:

This Conference inspired many attendees to return to their home communities or constituencies and bring the shorter work-time issue into further prominence, as described below.


Our shorter work-time Webmaster, Robert Bernstein of Santa Barbara, CA, announces our Web Page:

To get involved in the discussions, send your e-mail to: If you include the word info in your message, you will receive complete instructions on how to join and use the list. If that doesn't work, e-mail Robert directly at or phone him at 805-685-1283. Robert reports that many people are sending him electronic documents, and lively discussions about shorter work-time and now taking place in cyberspace.


In addition to Vicki Robin, many other Seattle residents connected with the movement to live more simply and sustainably also came to the Iowa Conference. When they returned home, they held a Seattle meeting and planned future local activities. Cecile Andrews and Larry Gaffin are now co-leading classes on "Shorter Work Hours: Balancing and Negotiating Work Options." The Seattle group will also promote the Iowa City Declaration for the 32-Hour Workweek, and will meet again in the Fall.

For more information, contact Larry Gaffin, Center for Life Decisions, 3121 E. Madison St., Suite 209, Seattle, WA 98112-4238; phone 206-325-9093.


The Conference inspired Indianapolis activist Brad Lorton to begin a local campaign around the 30-hour workweek. His new group, the "Indianapolis Shorter Work Time Organizing Committee" (ISTWOC, or "Shorter Work Time"), has as its top priority winning legislation for the "30-Hour Workweek at a Living Income." Lorton explains: "We stress the 30-hour workweek not to overlook other methods of reducing work time, but rather to emphasize the obsolescence of the 40-hour week. We stress 'Living Income' rather than 'no loss in pay' because too many workers are already working full-time at sub-poverty wages. We also support substantial increases in the legal minimum wage, and legally mandated guarantees for job security based on the 30-hour week."

This campaign will build coalitions with labor unions, social activist groups, feminist organizations, progressives, socialists and the broader democratic left, religious institutions, and other interested individuals and groups in the Indianapolis area, and will bring the shorter work time issue to the attention of elected office holders and political candidates. ISTWOC is independent from, but will cooperate closely with the Central Indiana Democratic Socialists of America.

ISTWOC also wants to network with other shorter work-time supporter around the U.S. For more info, contact:
Bradley E. Lorton, Shorter Work Time
P.O. Box 532321, Indianapolis, IN 46253-2321, phone (312) 388-4977.


After the Iowa Conference, shorter work-time advocates from the Boston area decided to organize their own local conference. Using the many Boston contacts developed over the past 6 years by the Shorter Work-Time Group, a conference announcement quickly generated broad enthusiasm.

Starting in May, interested groups began meeting monthly. On November 21 they will sponsor a 2-hour Educational Forum, "Shorter Work-Time" Why We Need It, How We Can Get It," with speakers on labor, health and environment, employer concerns, and policy/legislation, to focus attention and build momentum for a day-long conference to be held in Spring 1997.

Members of the newly formed "Organizing Coalition for a Shorter Work-Time Conference now include: Center for Women, Work, and Family; Citizen Action of Massachusetts; Coalition on New Office Technology; Communications Workers of America, District 1; Jobs with Justice; Archdiocese of Boston, Labor Guild; Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH); Mass. Human Services Coalition; Mass. Welfare Rights Union; National Association of Social Workers, Mass. Chapter; 9to5 Boston Office; Mass. Employees Assn.; Radcliffe Career Programs; Radcliffe Public Policy Institute; Shorter Work-Time Group; and Women's Institute for Leadership Development.

The Coalition continues to reach out to many diverse constituencies which have an interest in the work- time issue, to involve them in planning and participating in the conference. The Coalition is emphasizing the connections between overwork for some of us, underemployment/unemployment for others, and the need for good shorter work-time policies that will benefit working people, our families, workplaces, and communities. They hope that their conference can become a model for local organizing in other parts of the U.S. For more information, contact "Organizing Coalition for A Shorter Work-Time Conference," c/o Shorter work-Time Group, 69 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144, phone 617-628-5558.


U. Iowa Conference organizers Hunnicutt and Gould decided to continue the conversation begun in March with a new quarterly journal, SHIFT. This innovative publication provides a cross-disciplinary approach to the challenge of creating better families, communities, and jobs, through in-depth interviews with an eclectic variety of thinkers/activists/academics, including Juliet Schor, Betty Friedan, U.S. Rep. Patricia Schroeder, Ralph Nader, Michael Dukakis, Ralph Estes, and Leo Buscaglia. SHIFT costs $20/year for 4 issues ($10 for those on limited income). The second issue is about to come out. Back issues are still available. Send your check to "SHIFT Magazine," P.O. Box 2741, Iowa City, IA 52244.


Labor organizers/activists Jerry Tucker of the UAW/New Directions Movement and Sarah Ryan of the Seattle Postal Employees Union took the Conference momentum to the first national convention of the new Labor Party, held June 6-9, 1996 in Washington, D.C. That Convention, which represented over one million working people in the U.S., adopted their draft proposal, as follows:

"Less Work, More Money"

Each year we become more and more productive at work. In a fair and just economy, increased productivity should allow us to work fewer hours, not more. Yet compared to the late 1960s, we are now working an average of more than one extra month annually.

We work longer hours and have less vacation time than almost all workers in the industrialized world. While many of us cannot fined work, factory overtime is now at record levels because it is more profitable to pay over-time than it is to hire new workers.

Enough is enough.

We call for amending the Fair Labor Standards Act to:

Taken together these proposals will create millions of new jobs and allow us free time we need to care for our families and to participate in our communities. More family time and more community participation should be the fruit of increased labor productivity."

The Labor Party now has local chapters in many parts of the U.S. To find out more, contact their national office: Labor Party, P.O. Box 53177, Washington, D.C. 20009. (phone) 202-234-5190, FX-202-234- 5266.



THE NEW PARTY is a new labor-and community-based political party which runs candidates at the local level. They have already run in 12 states, and have won several local elections. Their Statement of Principles calls for: "Full employment, a shorter workweek, and a guaranteed minimum income for all adults."

The well-known shorter work-time advocate Juliet Schor is an active supporter of the New Party. Her pamphlet "A Sustainable Economy," written for the New Party says that "The Fair Labor Standards Act should be amended to prohibit mandatory overtime, to prohibit discrimination in pay and promotion to workers who choose to work shorter hours,... (to) include salaried workers, and to give all American workers a guaranteed 4-week paid vacation."

For more information about the New Party, and to find out if they have a local chapter in your area, contact New Party, 227 W. 40 St., #1303, NY, NY 10018, (phone) 212-302-5053.

THE POLITICS OF MEANING is another national effort whose agenda includes shorter work-time. Their goal is to integrate spirituality and politics, provide a progressive alternative to the fundamentalist Right, and bring love and caring into both everyday life and public policy. This movement was initiated at a national conference held April 4-6, 1996 in Washington, D.C. attended by 1,800 people from all over the U.S. Their draft statement on new Family Policies called for a "30 hour workweek" and "one-year paid Family Leave."

For more information, contact Politics of Meaning, c/o Foundation for Ethics and Meaning, 951 Cragmont Ave., Berkeley, CA 94708, (phone) 510-526-4974.


In Issue #6 of the Shorter Work-Time News (October 20, 1994), we reported on the remarkable victory of UAW Local 599 against layoffs, speed-ups, and forced overtime at GM's Buick City plant in Flint, Michigan. By September 1994, working time of six 9+-hour days--57-hour weeks--was typical. A 5-day strike, organized by the leadership of UAW Local 599, many of whom were active with the UAW reform caucus, New Directions Movement, made GM agree to hire back almost 800 previously laid-off workers, and to reduce work hours slightly.

However, GM got the last laugh. This summer, GM openly supported a non-NDM slate of candidates in local union elections. GM warned the workers that if the NDM slate were re-elected, many more layoffs would follow. The management-backed slate won the election, although by a narrow margin. Shortly thereafter, GM went ahead with layoffs, anyway. (The NDM folks are still busy organizing, from their grassroots status at the plan.

If you thought this kind of anti-union intimidation was a thing of the past, just look around. It's happening again, right now in 1996. (For more information, contact UAW-New Directions Movement, P.O. Box 6876, St. Louis, MO 63144.)


Several of our readers have been telling us about an ominous new trend spreading across U.S. workplaces. Under the guise of "flexibility" and "more time off," some employers are now requiring their employees to work regular 10and even 12-hour days. And they don't even pay overtime for the extended shifts!

Typical extended schedules:

At the Ford Assembly Plant in St. Paul, Minnesota, where management got UAW Local 879 to agree to 4/10-hour shifts followed by a "3-day weekend," workers agreed to give up overtime pay. Most other Ford workers with a 4/10 schedule are receiving time-and-a-half pay for anything over 8 hours per day. Obviously, Ford intends to use this contract as a precedent to increase daily hours in their other plants, while reducing workers' pay by substituting all straight pay for overtime pay. The only Local 879 dissenter was Union Rep. Flora Mateen, who reminded her co-workers that "People died in the fight for the 8-hour day, and we should never give that up."

Despite management rhetoric that these shifts serve workers' needs, the real reason for the extended shifts is to keep plant equipment running (or to keep the job covered) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at lower cost to the employer. Not only are extended workdays exhausting, so that workers spend much of their "3- day weekend" recovering. Regular 10- or 12-hour workdays can be dangerous leading to increased fatigue, accidents, and injuries.


In 1992, two Massachusetts women, Kathleen Pielech and Patricia Reed, were fired from their jobs at the Raynham-Taunton Greyhound Park (a dog racetrack), because they had refused to work on Christmas Day.

The two women filed suit to get their jobs back, citing their beliefs as Roman Catholics and a 23-year old Massachusetts law which protected employees who refuse to work on religious holidays. The women's case was also supported by the Anti-Defamation League, the Archdiocese of Boston, the Employees' Rights Division of the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts (the ACLU affiliate), and Massachusetts state Attorney General Scott Harshbarger.

But on August 20, 1996, the Mass. Supreme Judicial Court voted 4-3 that the women could not get their jobs back, because the state law was unconstitutional. The problem, said the majority Justices, was not workers' rights, but some tricky issues regarding separation of church and state.

The two women now want to bring their case to the U.S. Supreme Court, and appealed to "people of all faiths to come forward and fight this with us." "Losing your job because you choose your worship of God over your worship of money" is outrageous, said one of the plaintiffs. (Story from John Ellement, "Law Voided for Days Off on Religion," Boston Globe, Aug. 21, 1996.)



Just when it seemed that the shorter work-time issue was being totally ignored by the wider public, two major articles from two very different constituencies showed that Americans are increasingly concerned about this problem.

The cover story of the March 1996 Networker, a national journal for family therapists, notes that work issues are beginning to take center stage in the therapy hour. "Our Magnificent Obsession," by Vince Bielski, explains that until recently, most family therapists didn't even inquire about their clients' work lives. But with growing overwork and layoffs, therapists are realizing that family members who are overworked or unemployed can suffer in ways that can have serious harmful repercussions on other family members. The article also notes that work can become a substitute for other more meaningful activities, and encourages therapists to challenge their clients' over spending and consumption addiction, to help free them from the need to work and earn excessively. This is an amazing article! March 1996 also saw the publication of Jennifer L. Labbs' cover story in Personnel Journal (a national magazine for corporate human resource personnel) titled "Downshifters: Workers are Scaling Back. Are You Ready?" Labbs says that many employees are now actively seeking to work less, so employers who want to retain the best worker had better begin introducing a range of shorter work-time options into the workplace. She provides case studies of companies which have introduced various reduced work-time options, with the benefits and drawbacks. This thoughtful article is required reading for any employee trying to convince an employer to offer shorter work-time options-as well as for anyone in management seeking guidance on bringing shorter worktime policies to the workplace.

BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT WITH THE PUBLISHER, COPIES OF THE PERSONNEL JOURNAL ARTICLE CAN BE OBTAINED FROM THE SHORTER WORK-TIME GROUP, FOR COST OF COPYING AND MAILING. Please send $1.00 (check made out to the "Commonwealth Foundation") c/o the Shorter Work-Time Group, 69 Dover St., #1, Somerville, MA 02144 for each copy you want.



Richard A. Swenson, M.D. Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Resources to Overloaded Lives. (1992. Navpress, P.O. Box 35001, Colorado Springs, CO 80935, 1-800-366-7788)

This kind, sensitive, yet radical book, explicitly grounded in Christian spirituality, provides support and encouragement for Americans who want to slow down and live more meaningfully. Swenson, an M.D. with a background in physics, who daily treats our society's walking wounded, defines "margin" as "the space between ourselves and our limits--the amount we allow beyond that which is needed." He explains how in the modern era, a misguided conception of progress, which focused solely on material, technological, and intellectual advances, has pushed us to the limits, ignoring our emotional, community, and spiritual needs. To help us reclaim margins in emotional energy, health, time, and finances, he provides both practical advice as well as deeply-felt reflections. This book can assist readers in questioning our rushed, overly materialistic culture, and can help us restore our emotional, relational, and spiritual quality of life.



We are pleased to announce our new publication, Too Much Work for Some of Us, Not Enough Jobs for Others: Work-Time Imbalances and Shorter Work-Time Solutions in North America." This article, released in January 1996, is an updating of our classic 1990 study, "Less Time for Our Jobs, More Time for Ourselves."

Contents of this new paper include: While the U.S. denies the problem, Canada seeks solutions. Work- time imbalances in the U.S. and Canada. Who is affected by overwork? The contingent workforce, underemployment, and unemployment.

Overwork, stress, and quality of life. Impacts on families, health, communities, and costs to the workplace. A shorter work-time strategy for working people and their families. Achieving shorter work-time without financial harm to workers. The 25-page article is written in non-technical language, but filled with many relevant facts and figures. It includes 53 footnotes.

This new study has already received rave reviews. The Canadian government's Task Team on Working Time was so impressed that they ordered 50 copies and distributed it throughout government agencies! "Too Much Work for Some of Us, Not Enough Jobs for Others" costs $5.00 (includes postage and handling--make check out to "Commonwealth Foundation" and mail your request to Shorter Work-Time Group, 69 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144. Or use order form at end of this Newsletter.)




Since 1994, the Toronto Committee for Reduced Work Hours has held monthly meetings, mostly of a small core group. In April 1996 they held the first national Canadian conference on the issue, attended by 100 people, including the Mayor of Toronto. This conference expanded their base significantly. They subsequently changed their name to "32 Hours: Action for Full Employment," and as a result of this new name, have gotten much more public and media attention.

Their broader membership and increased public attention made it possible for them to apply for and receive a significant grant from the Atkinson Foundation, which supports progressive policy initiatives. This grant will allow "32 Hours" to hire a part-time staffer who over the next year will organize discussion sessions with each of the diverse sectors affected by the shorter work-time issue: unions, large corporate employers, small business, students/youth, government, and low-income people. They will also hold sessions on the environment and on the issue of benefit packages (vacations, health insurance, etc.). The project's goal is to develop the necessary consensus needed in order for good shorter work-time policies to be established in Canada.

For more information, contact Anders Hayden, 32 Hours: Action for Full Employment, 238 Queen St. West, Toronto ON, M5V 1Z7 Canada, (phone) 416-392-1658.


Bruce O'Hara, founder of Canada's WorkWell/Shorter WorkTime Network has decided to give up coordinating that Network and publishing its national newsletter. Continuing coverage of grassroots shorter work-time activity in Canada will now be carried out by the Edmonton chapter of the Network, which has been publishing its own newsletter for over a year.

Called Time for Change, this professionally designed quarterly newsletter will continue to focus on a particular aspect of work in each issue, as well as carrying reports of local chapter activities throughout Canada. The Summer 1996 issue covered, appropriately enough, "Work and Leisure." Future issues will look at "Women and Work," "Work and Wellness," "Work and Technology," "Spirituality in the Workplace," and "Work in the 21st Century.

To receive a complimentary issue of Time for Change, send your request along with your name and address to Roch Randon, Edmonton Work-Well Network, Quandary Solutions, 5963-103A Ave., Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6H 2J7. A year's subscription (4 issues) costs $10 (U.S. or Canadian); make checks out to "Quandary Solutions." You can also e-mail to or call Roch Randon at (403) 478-3242 for more information.

(P.S. Our best wishes to Bruce O'Hara in his new endeavors.)

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