Labor Rights

Wisconsin Workers Just Lost Their Days Off

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed off on a new budget last week that ended the state’s law banning seven-day work weeks. Republican State Senators Glenn Grothman and Mark Born have been pushing for the seven-day workweek legislation since last year.

via Shutterstock
via Shutterstock

While the previous law stated that workers were required to take a full 24 hours off for every seven-day period, the new provision in the budget allows employees to work the full seven days if they specify in writing that they would like to. Opponents were quick to point out that it is unlikely that decisions to work a full seven days will truly be “voluntary.”

According to groups like the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, there is nothing in the law that prevents an employer from stating that the decision to waive the right to a weekend is the mark of a committed employee. In addition, Wisconsin is an “employment at will” state, meaning that any employee can be terminated at any time provided the reason is not discriminatory. Opponents of the new law feel that for this reason, workers will feel pressured to work the full seven days in order to keep their jobs.

“Basically, as long as management does not make a very explicit and clumsy threat, there is almost no end to personal and financial rewards that can be made conditional on waiving that right [to a 7-day work week],” said Gordon Lafer, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute.

Those who hold these concerns have advocated schedules that work as an alternative to the seven-day workweek, stating that taking away the mandatory day off does not help workers manage their lives outside of 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,” writes Elizabeth Johnston of the National Women’s Law Center. “It should not take away their weekend.”

This is not the first time Governor Walker has acted against the interest of workers, particularly women. In the past, Walker has refused to raise the minimum wage, which disproportionately affects women, and repealed equal pay legislation.

Media Sources: National Women’s Law Center 7/17/15; Wisconsin AFL-CIO; Mashable 7/13/15; Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development; MSNBC 10/6/14;