What would happen if Americans only worked the hours that they got paid for?

If you either work or study at one of the CUNY colleges, you are aware that workers are campaigning to get a new contract.  The fact that faculty and staff have waited so long (5 years and counting) for a new contract, and that contract negotiations don’t seem to be on any local politician’s priority list concerns me.  It appears that a calculation has been made that CUNY can be safely ignored.  Ruminating on the issue made me wonder what would happen if CUNY staff and faculty only worked the hours they got paid for.  Then, I generalized the idea to all workers.

America is the hardest working nation in the western world.  We work hard.  We work extra hours without being compensated in either money or time.  We also leave vacation days on the table at the end of the fiscal year.  Yet, we complete timesheets that only reflect working 35 hours per week, facilitating the fiction that all of this work can actually get done in 35 hours.

It also allows employers to dismiss appeals to hire more staff to manage the workload.  Instead, we’re told to work harder and manage our time better.  Or even worse, we’re told to stop complaining, stop acting like a victim, and hand over our cell numbers so that we can be on-call.  The final insult is to have someone question our professionalism or caring, because if we “cared,” we’d be willing to work longer shifts, plus weekends.

If workers only worked the hours they got paid for, the wheels of production would come to a halt.  Work Your Hours is not a union campaign, it’s a worker campaign.  Work Your Hours is not an illegal campaign, it’s working our contracted hours.  Work Your Hours is not class warfare, it’s a protective campaign.

Work Your Hours is not a dream, it’s a goal.  What do you think needs to happen to realize that goal?

Rhonda Harrison is currently studying at CUNY SPS to earn her post-graduate certificate in Adult Learning & Program Design. She is a social worker with a background in workforce development and currently works as an Advisor at a community college.