Academic journal article Monthly Labor Review

A New Approach to Work-Hour Instability

Academic journal article Monthly Labor Review

A New Approach to Work-Hour Instability

Article excerpt

Before the 1938 enactment of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), workers often faced subsistence wages and untenably long work hours. The FLSA was created to ensure a basic standard of living for all workers. The approach was twofold: a minimum wage was established so workers could earn livable wages, and overtime pay was mandated to help guard against exploitatively long work hours. In "Underwork, work-hour insecurity, and a new approach to wage and hour regulation" (Industrial Relations, October 2015), authors Charlotte Alexander and Anna Haley-Lock juxtapose the workplace conditions the FLSA was designed to address with the challenges faced by hourly or low-wage workers in today's labor force. Alexander and Haley-Lock find the FLSA only partially addresses the needs of today's workers, many of whom have work hours that are too few, too variable, and too unpredictable.

Alexander and Haley-Lock focus on hourly or low-wage workers who are subject to "just-in-time scheduling," meaning they can be sent home before the end of a scheduled shift when there is a lag in customer traffic. This phenomenon, which is also known as "early send home," is a function of an employer's goal to reduce or eliminate labor costs. Workers in these situations cannot predict their earnings or plan ahead, and worklife balance for them is tenuous.

Some unions, some private employers, and some states have attempted to address the problem of work-hour insecurity. …

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