The 9-to-5 Dream
My son is a creative writer. I think he’s wonderful, but only time will tell if he can support himself this way. Like most artistically inclined liberal-arts graduates, he had to find a “day job.”
My son works full time in a hotel, which in this economic climate is precious, but he never knows his schedule from week to week. I see how frustrated he is, never being able to plan, never getting into a rhythm. Sometimes he starts at 8 in the morning, sometimes 3 in the afternoon, sometimes 12 at night. He related to me how he no longer knows which day it is, how each day runs into the next, a blur. He also shared how difficult it is to concentrate, given the circumstances. Although my heart goes out to him, he is one of the lucky ones: He has a job that at least gives him eight hours a day.
My daughter, also a college grad, wasn’t so lucky. She is looking for that full-time, entry-level corporate position in PR, and while she networks and freelances in her field, she had to find a job to pay her bills. She was offered a full-time hostess position at an upscale restaurant. Sadly, she too never knew what her schedule would be from week to week; even worse, she would go in to work, only to be told two hours later to go home because they didn’t need her anymore. The frustration in her voice was heartbreaking. Also heartbreaking is the economic reality: the fact that she was rarely given enough hours to pay the rent and couldn’t even try to pick up another job, given the unpredictable schedule.
So I was both fascinated and grateful to read The Nation’s May 11 cover story, “End of the 8-Hour Day.” It explained the depth of both the scheduling problem and the part-time problem that are facing this generation of employees. I had no idea that 41 percent of young people (those in their mid-20s and early 30s), including 49 percent in the African-American community, learn about their schedules a week or less in advance. The Nation gave context and history to the issue, along with analysis of the difficulties in challenging this trend and examples of young activists who are doing just that.
I have to say that I do not understand this side of corporate America. Corporate profits are up. Leaving aside any moral issues, these profits are dependent on healthy consumers in the long run. Are we so disconnected or historically ignorant that we don’t see this dependency?