HIGHTOWER: A Shorter Workweek

How do you feel about work?Abraham Lincoln, the last good Republican president, had this to say about it: "I never did like to work, and I don't deny it. I'd rather read, tell stories, crack jokes, talk, laugh -- anything but work."Hey, he wasn't called "Honest Abe" for nothing!These days, if you are a typical working person, you are working longer and getting less for it, and the 40-hour workweek has become a joke. On average, American workers are on the job 160 hours more each year than workers were just 25 years ago. That's an extra month of work each year added on to the full-time shift you're already working.For what? Are wages up? Ha! For 80 percent of us, they're down; you're having to paddle faster and work longer just to stay even, and your spouse has to join you in the same rat race. Are we happier as a result, are our families better off? Hardly -- our kids are in day-care or left on their own, we have no time for leisure or volunteer activities, and we're tired all the time.Oh, they say, you workers have to work more for America to be competitive in the New Global Economy. Really? Germans -- among our main competitors -- work nearly eight weeks less per year than we do, get paid more for it and enjoy better benefits. Even the Japanese, notorious workaholics, now have a shorter workweek than you do and are better rewarded.Meanwhile, our extra work has increased profits, stock values and CEO pay for the privileged few.One way to restore some fairness to our economy and some common sense to our lives is to begin to fight for our time by shortening the American workweek to four days.Not only can this help working families regain some sanity, but it would create new opportunities for the unemployed and underemployed as well, and companies would benefit both by the renewed vigor of the workforce and by its increased purchasing power.

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