Should you be forced to work on weekends? Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin think so, and they have introduced legislation to strip workers in that state of their right to a single, 24-hour “rest period,” once every seven days. Amazingly, though most American workers take for granted their right to take weekends for themselves and their families, only 13 states currently have laws guaranteeing at least one day off per week.
Wisconsin is one of those, but the new bill would change all that.
Actually, even many of the states that do have legislation on the books mandating a single day off every week, limit that right only to workers in industries where the lack of rest can be a safety issue. Wisconsin’s law falls under that category, guaranteeing the right to to a “rest period” only to workers in factories, where a single slip with machinery can lead to serious injury or death.
That Wisconsin Republicans are leading the charge to abolish weekends off should hardly come as a surprise. Only last year, they tried the same thing, led by Republican State Senator Glenn Grothman, who at the time called the restriction against forcing factory workers to work seven days per week “ridiculous,” and “goofy.”
Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker, has taken strong positions against labor since taking office in 2010. During Walker’s administration, Wisconsin’s economy had taken a nosedive, ranking 35th of the 50 states when it comes to adding new jobs during that period, and 38th in 2014.
According to figures cited by The Los Angeles Times, Wisconsin-based companies also lag well behind their competitors in other states, in terms of the value of their stock to investors.
On March 9, Walker signed a bill making Wisconsin the nation’s 25th so-called “right to work” state, meaning that workers may not be required to join labor unions or pay union dues to secure employment. “Right to work” laws strictly limit the ability of unions to collectively bargain with employers to win workers higher wages and other benefits — such as weekends off.
The Wisconsin bill says only that workers may “voluntarily choose” to work seven straight days, but employment law experts say that in reality, workers frequently come under pressure from employers to “voluntarily” give up their weekends off, as dramatized in the above clip from the 1999 movie Office Space, in which a smooth-talking manager continually tells employees he is going to “need you to go ahead and come in” to work on weekends.
Currently, workers who desire to work on weekends must, along with their employers, seek a waiver from the state. But that waiver has rarely, if ever, been refused, state officials say.
[Images: 20th Century Fox, Win McNamee/Getty Images]