Wisconsin and the 7-Day Work Week
Governor of Wisconsin Scott Walker has bragged that his state went from the 43rd best state in which to do business to the 17th during his tenure.That is a big improvement over the course of four short years. While business owners in Wisconsin may be enjoying an improved environment, we must ask what makes Wisconsin business-friendly, and whether those traits create an unfriendly environment for workers or residents. In the long run, what is bad for employees may also be bad for business.
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There is no denying benefits of being a business-friendly state. More businesses coming to an area equals the creation of more jobs. Businesses may add character and flair to a community, and the tax revenues help everyone in the state.
The studies that Scott Walker is basing his claims on (and there are additional studies that make different conclusions) measure CEO opinions about an area’s Workforce Quality, Taxes and Regulations, and Living Environment.
“Workforce Quality” sounds dubious. What makes a high-quality workforce? Some leaders in Wisconsin might answer that question, a workforce that doesn’t expect to have any pesky labor rights.
Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, has introduced a bill that would get rid of that business-killing law that requires employers give workers a day off. Workers in Wisconsin currently enjoy one day off for every six days worked, or one day off in seven. To be clear, there is a lot of flexibility as to when that day off occurs; for example, an employer may have one day off, work twelve straight days, and have another day off.
Sen. Grothman’s bill would do away with the inconvenience of taking a rest day to spend with family, and allow workers the freedom to work seven days per week, 52 weeks per year.
One of Grothman’s arguments is that the seven-day workweek is good for businesses that need workers to cover additional shifts. It seems disingenuous to to claim that one worker must cover so many shifts, when unemployment is up in most of Wisconsin. Perhaps being “business-friendly” means you don’t have to incur the expense of hiring and training additional people; instead, just completely wear out one worker.
Perhaps the most amusing of Grothman’s arguments, however, is that giving up the onus of a day off would be “voluntary” for the worker. Workers would only enjoy the freedom to work endless days, day after day, if they wanted to. Because it is unthinkable that any employer would put pressure on employees to work more, or favor employees who are eager to work more and never go home.
Wisconsin is an at-will employment state. That means employers can fire employees at any time for any reason or no reason at all — just as long as it is not a protected reason. You may not be fired due to your race or religion, for example. But insist on a day off to sleep in and spend time with your children? Your employer does not need to give you a reason why you are getting a pink slip. It might, however, have something to do with other workers agreeing to work your shifts in return for no days off.
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