The Wisconsin Bill Killing The Weekend Ignores The Real Problem Of Low Wages
Sunday Funday might soon come to an end in America's cheese state. Wisconsin Republicans introduced a bill that would eliminate weekends, taking away workers' right to one day off each week. While hidden under the guise of helping workers make more money, the proposed law would strip employees of their right to time off and avoid the real problem of low wages.
The current law in Wisconsin guarantees workers employed in a factory or retail business "at least one period consisting of 24 consecutive hours of rest in each calendar week." If an employer wants someone to work without a day off for a short period of time, the employer and employee can petition the Department of Workforce Development for a waiver. Republican state representatives want to streamline this process with the new bill that would allow workers to "voluntarily choose" whether or not to take their day off.
As the law stands now, everyone doesn't necessarily get a day off once every seven days; a day off on Sunday one week and Saturday of the following week technically abides by the law, but leads to 12 straight days of work. However, this little bit of protection requires employers give workers time off each month, which would effectively be taken away if the proposed bill becomes law.
Because there would be no oversight for this "voluntary" system, employers could demand that employees work more hours each week with no repercussions. In an interview with The Huffington Post, the vice president of the Economic Policy Institute, Ross Eisenbrey says:
It's a very hard thing to know whether something is truly voluntary or not. If the employer puts pressure on people and lets them know they will be unhappy if workers exercise their right to have a day off, that might be enough so that no worker ever does anything but volunteer to work seven days a week.
Supporters of the bill are disguising it as a pro-workers initiative, when in fact it's very anti-worker. To The Huffington Post, Glenn Grothman, a Republican state senator who's backing the bill, says:
Right now in Wisconsin, you're not supposed to work seven days in a row, which is a little ridiculous because all sorts of people want to work seven days a week.
Please direct me toward one person who actually wants to work seven days without a break. Perhaps Grothman meant many people need to work seven days a week in order to make ends meet with their minimum wage paychecks. In that case, the real problem is not a day off, but low wages. If factory and retail workers made more than the $7.25 per hour minimum wage, they wouldn't need to work seven days a week. Allowing workers to lengthen their work week rather than increasing the minimum wage is like putting an already infected Band-Aid on a deep wound — it will only make things worse.
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