For decades, Wisconsin has banned a seven day work week, for most people. Employers must give workers 24 hours off each week. The proposed change would make the law voluntary in several industries.
There will be a hearing on the idea Thursday in Madison. It appears divisive.
Republican Sen. Glenn Grothman says his plan is about helping people. He says if workers in manufacturing and retail are willing, the state should allow them to work seven days in a row.
“People who have two or three different jobs because they want to make some extra money. These people are working Saturday’s and Sunday’s, maybe at convenience stores, maybe at fast food outlets making $7.50 an hour. They may have a factory job (that) would be willing to pay them time and a half on Saturday or Sunday,” Grothman says.
Grothman says the business group Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce suggested the change. His says some employers would like to offer workers more hours.
“Particularly as the economy picks up and we have a shortage of welders or a shortage of machinists, I think some factories would be able to give these people the overtime if they wanted,” Grothman says.
Grothman says he understands that everyone won’t want to work seven days a week, but it should be an option for those who do.
One person he’ll have to convince is Democratic Senator Fred Risser. The two serve on the Senate’s Judiciary and Labor Committee. It’s considering the bill. Risser says it could allow employers to pressure workers.
“If you’re an employee and your boss tells you now would you please volunteer an extra couple of days, you’re going to be reluctant not to accept that,” Risser says.
Risser says he doubts the bill will pass because he’s never heard complaints about the existing law.
There are reasons Wisconsin has required a 24-hour break each week, according to Paul Secunda. He’s a law professor at Marquette University.
“One, to protect worker safety, workers especially in manufacturers or retail are a lot less likely to hurt themselves if they’re not overtired by working seven days a week. The second reason was to provide for leisure time for the workers so that they could enjoy their family and their community,” Secunda says.
Secunda says the third reason was to spread the work around. Employers have to hire more people in order to run operations at full speed, seven days a week.
As it stands, there are already exemptions from current law.
Among those Wisconsin lets work seven days a week, are dairy farmers and people working in restaurants and at paper mills. Grothman’s bill would add factory and retail workers.