Work Less, Play More

Berkeley Initiative would require full pay for 35 hours of work

An initiative measure on the Berkeley ballot this November, if passed, would require Berkeley employers to reduce the work week to 35 hours, with no reduction in pay, and pay double time for all hours worked over 35 hours.

Although the 35-for-40  law must be passed on a state or national level in order to be truly effective, and although the measure does not appear to cut the work week for the many salaried workers in Berkeley, folks should pass  35-for-40

Although government reports show that US unemployment is low right now, the government statistics don t count the long-term unemployed.  And, the US numbers count under-employed and part time workers as employed, distorting the picture.     Decreasing the work week will mean more full time, good jobs at better wages.  A 35 hour week also gives workers more hours to enjoy life or participate in their families.  In a era when almost every parent works, the 35 hour week is  pro-family.

The Berkeley ballot measure would apply to all Berkeley businesses licensed by the city or having contracts with the city.  In addition to requiring double time for hours worked in excess of 35, the bill would make compulsory hours over 35 illegal.  The proposed law is similar to a bill introduced in Congress in 1980 by Rep. John Conyers of Detroit.  That bill would have created an estimated 7 million extra jobs nationally, but it was never voted on.  Currently, American workers are working a longer work week than workers in almost any other industrial country.  Although the 35-for-40 law would only apply in Berkeley, and it is admittedly difficult to make labor standards advances in one small city in a competitive capitalist context, Berkeley voters need to vote their self- interest and pass 35-for-40. 

Voting against giving yourself an extra hour everyday shows a lack of self-respect and is, in a word, pathetic.  Passage of such a law in Berkeley would put cutting the work week back on the political map in the US for the first time since the 1930s.    A majority of Berkeley s voters work for someone else, either getting a salary or a wage.  Salaried workers should vote with those who earn wages, as a majority of Californians recently voted on the minimum wage increase ballot measure which recently passed.  Although not everyone earns the minimum wage, and not everyone would benefit from 35-for-40, it advances the interests of everyone who works for an employer.  That the media has already dismissed the measure s likelihood of passing, and that even the progressive politicians in Berkeley have not endorsed 35-for-40, only shows how far American political discussion has been dominated by the boss s interests.    Having a 35 hour week in Berkeley may cause some bosses to move certain jobs to Oakland or elsewhere, which is why the 35-for-40 ballot measure in Berkeley is only a first step.  If it can be passed in Berkeley, the next step is passing a similar law at the state and national level.  Ultimately, getting a fair share requires more than just voting – mass organizing, union drives, and worker solidarity on an international level are required to achieve any adjustment in the distribution of wealth between workers and bosses.  Reducing the work week gives workers more of the wealth they produce, and bosses will never voluntarily accept it.

The Share the Work Committee, which wrote the ballot measure and collected over 3000 signatures to get it on the ballot, is planning a grassroots campaign to pass 35-for-40.  Volunteers and donations are need.

Contact the Committee at 841-7460 or write to PO Box 5832, Berkeley, CA 94705.