Saturday, June 14, 2014
New Baffler post: our deadly culture of overwork
Posted by Kathleen Geier
The terrible auto accident last week that nearly killed comedian Tracy Morgan was caused by a Walmart truck driver who hadn't slept in over 24 hours. In my latest Baffler post, I cite that accident as an example of America's deadly culture of overwork and the lax labor laws that enable it. Research strongly suggests that working long hours is associated with a host of poor health outcomes that include higher rates of injuries, depression, anxiety, coronary heart disease, and -- yes -- death. Yet there's little evidence that long working hours increases productivity -- in fact, the truth appears to be the opposite. In many countries in Europe, the maximum legal work week is 48 hours. It's long past time the U.S. institute a similar cap.
UPDATE: To be clear, it's professional class workers who are working longer hours these days -- lower-income workers are actually working less, on average. As a recent Economist piece noted, "Americans with a bachelor’s degree or above work two hours more each day than those without a high-school diploma," and the share of college-educated men working over 50 hours a week has risen significantly in recent decades. But the decline in the average number of working hours for low-income workers isn't exactly voluntary -- to a large extent, it "reflects a deterioration in their employment prospects as low-skill and manual jobs have withered," says the Economist.
SECOND UPATE: The New Republic's excellent David Dayen has more on the economics of the trucking industry and the regulatory failures which are contributing to many deadly trucking accidents.