"A long line of workaholics": How Americans can fight for a "balanced approach to work"

To the average European, the U.S. is a country of workaholics who have an unhealthy work-life balance

Published September 5, 2022 3:00PM (EDT)

Desperate businessman working in the office late at night and overloaded with work (Getty Images)
Desperate businessman working in the office late at night and overloaded with work (Getty Images)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

To the average European, the U.S. is a country of workaholics who have an unhealthy work-life balance. Americans generally work longer hours, have less paid vacation time and are more likely to work on weekends. And despite all those long hours, Americans don't even have universal health care — although the Affordable Care Act of 2010, also known as Obamacare, has greatly reduced the number of Americans who lack any type of health insurance.

Journalist Ruben Navarrette, Jr. examines the conditions that U.S. workers have been facing in an op-ed published by the Daily Beast on Labor Day 2022. Navarrette identifies some problems, but he also notes some positive developments for U.S. workers.

"This Labor Day," Navarrette writes, "there is a hell of a lot going on in the 'work space.' Thanks to a labor reform bill that was recently passed by the legislature and which is now headed to the desk of Gov. Gavin Newsom for his signature, fast-food workers in California could soon earn as much as $22 per hour. And given that Newsom is a prospective candidate for the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination, the rest of the country can expect to hear much more about this salary boost over the next several months."

Navarrette continues, "A new Gallup poll finds public support for organized labor in the U.S. to be the highest it's been in more than a half-century, 57 years to be exact. Seventy-one percent of Americans now approve of unions — the highest the polling firm has recorded since 1965. The current figure is so high, in fact, that it is closing in on the percentage of Americans who backed unions in the 1950s — when three out of four Americans approved of them."

The journalist notes that in recent years, unions have been "popping up in the darndest places" and that employees of Amazon, Trader Joe's, Starbucks and Apple have been "organizing or advocating to start unions."

"Many Americans are in the 'grudge' phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, mindful of how badly many companies and corporations behaved two years ago when U.S. workers were at their most vulnerable," Navarrette observes. "Millions of U.S. workers lost their jobs and health insurance, and they had to figure out how to provide childcare and avoid homelessness. Now that workers have the leverage in an 'employee market,' they've become hard-nosed negotiators. And we're suffering a hangover from the so-called Great Resignation. In 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 47 million Americans quit their jobs."

Navarrette points out that some members of Generation Z "aren't actually ditching their job" but are "no longer putting in 110 percent," which "means no more working weekends or holidays, or logging 80 hours per week." The journalist adds that as a "workaholic" who comes from a "long line of workaholics" and had his first job when he was 13, he is "rooting for Generation Z" and hopes that Zoomers "succeed in readjusting Americans' work-life balance."

"My paternal grandfather, Roman, the immigrant from Chihuahua, Mexico, used to show up to work a half-hour early and give his boss that extra 30 minutes of hard labor in the fields as a gift to say gracias to the employer — for giving him a way to feed his family," Navarrette notes. "My maternal grandfather, Samuel, who moved his entire family from Texas to California on a rumor that farmers in the Golden State were paying one dollar more per hour, broke his hand once, but kept picking lettuce with his one good hand rather than lose his job."

Navarrette continues, "And my grandmothers, Esperanza and Aurora, worked even harder than their husbands because — besides toiling side by side with them as equals in the fields — they also did most of the cooking, cleaning, laundry, and other household chores. Respect, ladies! Respeto…. You see, my family — like many American families, and virtually all Latino families — worship at the altar of work…. It's clear that maintaining a healthy and balanced approach to work is a good thing for Americans to strive for."

By Tom Boggioni

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