America's workforce finds itself at two different polar ends. There are those struggling in largely low-income jobs who many times can't get enough hours to cover their bills. And then there are those at the professional level who are seemingly expected to work around the clock. In both instances, families are suffering.
There's been a lot of words written on the working poor, and rightfully so. Millions struggle each day to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. They lack dignity at work and are forced to fight and scrape for everything they get. Their plight is a sign of why joining a union like the Teamsters is so important.
Less talked about, however, is the 24/7 work culture that is becoming increasingly prevalent for many. A study soon to be published by Harvard University's Gender Initiative shows that men and women are struggling to keep their lives in balance given the expectations in the workplace.
As The New York Times noted in an article on the report:
The time Americans spend at work has sharply increased over the last four decades. We work an average of 1,836 hours a year, up 9 percent from 1,687 in 1979, according to Current Population Survey data analyzed by Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute. Some reasons include a more competitive and global economy as well as technology that enables people to work at any hour and location.
This sets up unrealistic expectations that leaves workers in such jobs drained and unable to spend any real quality time with their families. And that's not good for anybody.
Meanwhile, there are a few signs that things could be looking up for those working on the other end of the pay scale. Casual Mexican food chain Chipotle announced that it will offer paid sick leave and vacation time to it's hourly employees, improving their quality of life. It's a small step, but one that could set a precedent for other fast-food outlets.
Workers shouldn't have to be slaves to their employers. Whether it means being forced to log long hours or not having access to paid time off, neither is good option. The public and private sector need to take steps to guarantee workers' time and effort is respected in the workplace.