Overtime (was Re: happy autoworkers)

Michael Eisenscher meisenscher at igc.apc.org
Sun Jul 12 00:08:46 PDT 1998

Apropos of Doug's point --

By comparison, in 1995, the Computer Manufacturing industry employed about 498,000, of whom only 2.1% were union members. Adding other electronics/information technology mfg. sectors (office equipment, communications, and instruments...but not aerospace), there were about 1.1 million workers of whom about 6% overall were union members. In the Silicon Valley, there is not a single semiconductor or computer manufacturing facility that is organized.

Despite much talk about organizing, as of this writing I am aware of not one union (or the AFL-CIO) which has committed resources and staff to a long-term sustained organizing effort in this **basic** industry. Can a labor movement looking to its future afford to allow so strategically important a sector to remain unorganized without putting that future into doubt?

At its present rate of decline, private sector union density at the start of the 21st century will stand only a couple of points higher than it was at the start of the 20th (then 5%). Ponder that statistic the next time you read an editorial about "Big Labor."

In solidarity, Michael E. (formerly the UE organizer in the Silicon Valley, 1980-84)

At 11:29 AM 7/11/98 -0400, Doug Henwood wrote:
>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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