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VOL. 44 | NO. 44 | Friday, October 30, 2020

More money isn’t only fix for overworked workforce

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Overworked and underpaid. It’s an old, jokey statement that’s not so funny now. No, it seems like you work more hours than you ever did, and your ends still come up 2 feet from meeting.

You’re overwhelmed because you’re underfunded month after month and you don’t know why. Read “Worked Over” by Jamie K. McCallum, though, and you’ll understand.

Fifty years ago, American workers looked forward to their weekends.

Today, we feel the same but there’s one big difference: Blue-collar Americans in 2020 work more hours than did workers in 1974 – an uptick of about 13% that happened in the years 1975-2016.

The reasons, McCallum says, are many.

The biggest issue seems to be low blue-collar wages combined with a 24/7 world and algorithms many employers use for staff scheduling. This leaves workers with irregular hours and an inadequate paycheck, forcing many to seek second or even third jobs – which may become difficult to keep because of those algorithms.

Worse yet, minimum wage laws that are poorly enforced, allowing employers to legally require tasks for which workers are unpaid. And then there are the gig jobs that sometimes pay the equivalent of pocket change or that make demands on workers that keep payouts low.

McCallum says that even white-collar workers are starting to see time/pay issues, especially during this pandemic.

There are things that can be done to alleviate these problems.

“Worked Over: How Round-the-Clock Work is Killing the American Dream”

by Jamie K. McCallum

c.2020, Basic Books

$28

261 pages

Employees, McCallum says, “could be motivated by something else besides money,” such as better scheduling, enhanced benefits, more flexibility or longer break times.

Job performance demands might be relaxed somewhat. Employers can eliminate the pressure to do more in less time and stop demanding that employees compete with robots. We can re-examine our “new work ethic.”

And unions, he indicates, shouldn’t be off the table.

Despite that it’s for anyone who’s employed, the way you approach “Worked Over” will depend on which side of the paycheck you’re on. It does lean more toward employees – and blue-collar workers, at that.

The author doesn’t touch on white-collar work much, though the relevance for them exists in his examples and information.

Worker-readers hailing from all business-types will find outraging tales, stories of workplace politics and near-dystopian hints of the future of employment. If it weren’t for the somewhat Norma Rae tone and the solution-ideas, it would be enough to send a worker, screaming, to the break room to hide.

For business owners, McCallum explains why it’s necessary to put employees first and rethink algorithms for all workers, and why robots might not be the employment solution you think it might be.

He shows how some workplace practices have detrimental trickle-down effects on blue-collar workers (and, by extension, you), and how the biggest picture may be the scariest.

Reach for this book with an open mind and there’s much to learn, whether you’re the owner, supervisor or an in-the-trenches worker. One job, two jobs, three jobs or more, “Worked Over” can’t be overlooked.

Terri Schlichenmeyer’s reviews of business books are read in more than 260 publications in the U.S. and Canada.

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