Overtime (was Re: happy autoworkers)

Doug Henwood dhenwood at panix.com
Sat Jul 11 08:29:38 PDT 1998

Hasn't this discussion of overtime gotten a little ahead of the evidence? The BLS reports that workers in "motor vehicles and car bodies" worked an average of 44.6 hours a week in May 1998, and earned $982.54 in direct pay for it. That's actually down a couple of hours from 1994 (the industry has been hiring a bit over the last couple of year, reducing the need for OT), and a long way from 80 hours. I agree that American society is sick with overwork, but 45 hours is enough to make this claim, isn't it?

By the way, there were just 359,000 employees in this industry division, 267,000 of them production workers. In the broader category, motor vehicles and equipment - which includes trucks and buses (another 43,000 workers, 34,000 of them in production) and parts and accessories (545,000 employees, 434,000 of them production) and a few others - there are 993,000 workers, 767,000 of them in production. For an industry that still seems to occupy a giant space in our image of the working class, compare that to the 2.5 million who toil in department stores and the 7.7 million in "eating and drinking places." In fact, the retail sector as a whole has added almost as many workers in the last two years (893,000) as work in the entire motor vehicle industry. If unions can't organize those workers, they're dead.


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