This week, Wisconsin said goodbye to a ban on 7-day work weeks. Before Sunday, Wisconsin law required that factory and retail employees “get at least 24 consecutive hours of rest for every seven-day stretch” of work. Under Wisconsin’s new budget, workers are now free to work 7 days a week if they “want” to. That’s right, for Wisconsin retail and factory workers, there may be no weekend.
It is true that some workers want to work more hours. But putting workers in a position where they might be asked to work that eighth day in a row raises important questions about choice. Because, what does the provision really mean? It means that if you are an at-will employee and you don’t volunteer to work seven days, you could be let go.
Workers are responsible for more than their jobs. Workers are caregivers and students. They are juggling multiple jobs and managing their health. At the same time, many low-wage workers today trek into work only to be sent home, receive last minute calls directing them to come in or stay home, and have schedules that change each week. These challenging scheduling practices mean scrambling to arrange childcare, fluctuating income, and the inability to plan ahead. Requiring 24 hours off for employees who worked 7 days straight ensured at least a little bit of time for employees to manage their lives. Taking that away does nothing to help workers struggling to care for their family and make ends meet.
If Wisconsin wants to help workers, it should guarantee them schedules that work. Wisconsin should give workers a say in when they work and require employers to compensate workers when they are sent home early, work call in shifts, or have their schedules changed at the last minute. It should not take away their weekend.