NEWSLETTER -- VOL. 5, ISSUE 1
The modern world has had far too little understanding of the art
of keeping young. Its notion of progress has been to pile one thing on top
of another without caring if each thing was crushed in turn. People forget
that the human soul can enjoy a thing most when there is time to think about
it and be thankful for it. And by crowding things together, they lost the
sense of surprise; and surprise is the secret of joy.
-- G. K. Chesterton
We begin 2007 with a look at how a more relaxed lifestyle can also be a more
earth-friendly way of life. What a great idea to contemplate as we make
resolutions for the coming year. -- K.S.
OUR NEW ED GETS TO WORK
Friends of Take Back Your Time --
I don't know about you, but I did not need to make any extra resolutions this
New Year -- because January 1st was my first official day as the new Executive
Director of Take Back Your Time. There is a lot of good work to be done. All
made easier because Gretchen Burger put in a tremendous amount of energy to take
this organization from its inception to where it is today. Fortunately, Gretchen
will continue on as a member of the Board.
My goal for the coming year is to build on the power and credibility that has
already been earned on the national stage. We need your help!
In the next few months, we will be sending out questionnaires asking for your
input. We need to hear from you. We need to know how you see the organization.
How do you "Take Back Your Time" in your own life? How are you helping us to
promote the cause? Are there sister organizations that we should be partnering
with? Is your town, county or state legislator considering a positive policy
action? Would your workplace be interested in learning about the benefits
promoted by Take Back Your Time?
If you are willing to share a little more about how you came to be involved with
Take Back Your Time, who you are and your vision for our shared future, then
TBYT will be able to be an even more effective organization. Although we will
ask you where you live, we will not share that information.
Thank you, in advance, for helping me realize my dreams for Take Back Your Time.
With your insights and involvement, this organization will be unstoppable.
TAKE BACK YOUR TIME TO LAUNCH VACATION CAMPAIGN
By John de Graaf, National Coordinator
Buoyed by a more receptive new political environment, TAKE BACK YOUR TIME
members have been working to support new policy initiatives like the Healthy
Families Act (guaranteeing paid sick days) and Paid Family Leave. Here in
Washington State, where I live, it seems highly likely that we will pass a paid
family leave bill, similar to the one in California, during this legislative
session. But these issues have champions who have spent more time and effort
focusing on them than we have. Yet, despite the fact that the U.S. is the only
industrial nation without a national paid vacation policy, and studies show
workers are seeing their vacation time steadily eroded (a Conference Board study
showed that 40% of U.S. workers didn't even take a week off last year), no
campaign to win paid vacation time for America's workers has appeared on the
national scene since Joe Robinson's Work to Leave effort several years ago.
The appeal of Robinson's idea was clear -- 50,000 people signed a petition he
drafted asking for a paid vacation law. But the idea never got out of
Congressional committees. With the new Congress we may have a much bigger
chance. My conversations with many TBYT Board members make it clear that this is
a campaign where TBYT can actually take the lead and make substantial progress.
Joe Robinson's research makes it clear that lack of vacation severely hurts
Americans' health, family bonding and even workplace productivity. Moreover, as
Cecile Andrews points out, a vacation campaign is really about values -- do we
want to slow down a little and enjoy life, make time for friends, family, art
and nature, or simply keeping producing more and more stuff faster and faster?
As such, a vacation campaign is both practical and visionary. And we can find
many allies in the travel industry, parks and recreation professionals, health
professions, environmental organizations, unions, family organizations and
others who will join us in this campaign. Even many enlightened businesses, such
as Price Waterhouse Cooper, are seeing clearly why America's stinginess about
vacations makes no sense at all. I believe we can also find political leaders
who will come forward to champion this initiative.
We want your feedback on this. How much vacation time should we ask for? How
much should be paid? Should we also ask for the right to some unpaid time off
without penalty, as Jerome Segal has suggested? How should we frame the
campaign? What points would you put up front? Do you know stories about people
who suffer from lack of vacation time? Do you? Does your family? Do you know
people and organizations we should look to for support? Are you willing to
volunteer time to help build this campaign? Do you know other supporting
resources, good books, etc.? Please send any and all ideas to me at
In the next issue of this newsletter we'll explore the
issue and the ideas in depth. This will be the first big signature campaign for
TAKE BACK YOUR TIME. It has already been endorsed by the Adventure Travel Trade
. Thanks go to Board
member Joe Robinson for all his work on this issue.
MORE TIME, LESS CARBON:
THE FOUR-DAY WORKWEEK (AND THE
TAKE BACK YOUR TIME AGENDA)
AS PEOPLE- -- AND EARTH-FRIENDLY -- WAYS TO ORGANIZE OUR
By Gregory Wright
While we take back our time for ourselves and our families, we can also reduce
the carbon dioxide we produce and help save our planet from the ravages of the
climate change our carbon is causing.
An excellent way to do this is to allow as many workers as possible to hold a
full-time job, and earn a full-time paycheck and full-time benefits, in four
days of work per week instead of five
AA Four-Day Workweek will enable workers to reduce the amount of time they spend
commuting to and from their jobs by 20 percent -- one-fifth! And the amount of
energy devoted to this commuting--it almost always is fossil fuel energy -- will
also be reduced by one-fifth. Any region or country where job commuting is
auto-intensive and long-distance(the U.S., and especially the U.S. Sunbelt) will
realize especially great reductions in energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.
As the prevalence of "extreme commuters" -- commuters who drive more than90
minutes (it used to be an hour)to, and from, work -- steadily increases, and as
highly polluting stop-and-go traffic on urban roadways does the same thing, the
personal, environmental, and social benefits of the wide scale adoption of
Four-Day Workweeks will also increase.
Reducing the number of hours that define the standard full-time American
workweek would make it easier for the U.S. to widely adopt the Four-Day
Workweek. The current forty-hour week, officially adopted in 1940, necessitates
ten-hour days on a four-day schedule -- too long for many people, and
intolerable for anyone who must devote significant time to commuting. Promotion
of the Four-Day Workweek needs to be accompanied by promotion of a shorter
officially defined full-time workweek, and of a process to get there -- perhaps
a phased decade-long transition to a 32-hour workweek of four eight-hour days or
a 34-hour workweek of four eight-and-a-half-hour days, or at least a 36-hour
workweek of four nine-hour days. (The definition of overtime as beginning after
eight hours of work will need to be taken to nine hours to secure the support of
the business community for a Four-Day Workweek.)Also, the four days of this
shortened workweek need not be consecutive, and should not be for anyone who'd
like to break them into two groups of two days, or of one day and three days.
Europeans are already on to the many benefits of shorter workweeks. The Center
for Economic and Policy Research (www.cepr.net
nonpartisan Washington think tank studying economic and social issues affecting
people's lives, observed in a December report that the people of "Old Europe"
each consume about half as much energy as the average American, largely due to
European patterns of work, and that if Europe -- for some crazy irrational
reason -- decided to switch to the U.S. model and work as many hours per capita
as Americans, it would increase its energy use by nearly one-third! In the years
ahead, the rapidly developing economies of the rest of the world are going to
adopt the American or the European work-life model. It will be much better for
all of us and for this planet if they adopt the Euro model -- and that preferred
future will become more likely if we Americans adopt it too!
Conrad Schmidt's book, Workers of the World, Relax!
,, also advances the
idea that shorter hours are needed to cut greenhouse gas emissions and global
Other benefits of a widespread Four-Day Workweek include less cost for fuel and
car repairs and auto insurance, less congested roadways (and road rage)for
everyone, and better physical health as well as reduced CO2 emissions
and a mitigation of the hellish world our carbon dependence is rapidly creating.
TBYT should advocate for the expansion of the Four-Day Workweek and, in
parallel, a redefined shorter "full-time" workweek that will grease the skids of
Four-Day Workweeking--while also lending support to the many "holding actions"
that unfortunately are needed to prevent its shortsighted cancellation where it
already exists. Mechanics working for American Airlines at San Francisco
Airport, members of the Transportation Workers Union, recently approached TBYT
for help in making their case for retention of the Four-Day Workweek, which they
enjoy on a "4/10" schedule of four ten-hour days, instead of reverting to the
"5/8" schedule desired by the employer; their long commutes make longer workdays
-- with one less commute a week --much more preferred. That's how useful the
one-fifth reduction in commuting is to long-distance commuters, even if the
four-day schedule is 4/10 (instead of the more humane 4/9 or the preferred 4/8).
Following another attack on the Four-Day Workweek, Larry Langford, former county
commission president in Jefferson County, Alabama, defended the four-day
schedule for most county workers that he initiated in 2005 from its cancellation
by his successor in 2006, stating: "the four-day workweek gave us better control
of our employees and it helped the gas situation." Langford continued,
"Secondly, our employees were given time with their families; a happy employee
and a content employee are more prone to give you their maximum while they're at
work because they have more time to spend with their families while they're
Even when business supports it, the Four-Day Workweek can be a tough sell. In
California, Four-Day Workweek legislation was sponsored by the California
Chamber of Commerce in 2006. Despite testimony highlighting the need for this
bill, the California Employment Committee rejected it.
New Mexico commuters might fare better. Four-Day Workweeks -- likely starting
with state workers --are being considered by Gov. Bill Richardson as part of New
Mexico's suite of policy components for reducing the state's CO2
emissions (TBYT advocacy by this writer helped add this proposal to the state's
Climate Change Advisory Group's purview).
Coconut Creek, Florida city employees, as well as most of the city's residents,
have been "overwhelmingly in favor" of a Four-Day Workweek a year after the
switch to the four-day schedule in October 2005,according to City Manager John
P. Kelly. Kelly said the switch helps employees reduce gas costs and eases
traffic. City Hall is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Thursday; the former
schedule was 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday. "It's really consolidating it,"
Kelly said. "The morale has skyrocketed and ... there has been a 33 percent
savings in some months in sick leave usage."
A recent "advanced search'" on Google for "Four-Day Workweeks" turned up 570
matches and for "Four-Day Work Weeks" found 979 matches -- not a great number of
matches for this potentially very important topic. There's a policy research and
advocacy need to fill here.
The Four-Day Workweek can be a significant contributor to reduced fossil fuel
use and global warming emissions reductions -- along with the whole suite of
time-for-our-lives and work-life flexibility goals of Take Back Your Time's
Agenda for Time to Care. Enabling as many of America's employees as possible to
earn their livings in four days instead of five days of full-time work is one of
the hundreds of specific different measures that America and the developed world
will need to undertake, robustly and soon, if the21st century's
greatest Buckminster Fuller famously suggested that society should "do more with less."
More time to lead better -- and more variegated, productive, and satisfying --
lives while leaving less carbon pollution in our wake each day is a useful
extension of that idea. Or, if you like, "more time, less carbon
-- which I propose be the coming year's official theme of Take Back Your Time as
we approach the2008 U.S. presidential election year.
Going easier on people and on the environment in the way we do
society's work is one of the best things we can do for both of them. So let's
lighten up... and (help the Earth) chill out!
Greg Wright is a Take Back Your Time board member, social inventor and
environmental advocate. His proposal for making the Four-Day Workweek a specific
focus of TBYT advocacy began during the 2005 TBYT Conference in Seattle and
first hit the Net with a proposal on SEIU's Since Sliced Bread website,
"Four-Day, 36-Hour Workweek: Work reduced by 10%, but Commuting reduced by 20%:
MOVERS AND SHAKERS
CENTER FOR ECONOMIC AND POLICY RESEARCH
The above article mentions a December, 2006 study by Center for Economic and
Policy Research (CEPR). This study found a correlation between long work hours
(U.S. model) and higher carbon emissions, compared to the European model (less
work hours). Dr. Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of CEPR, spoke with TBYT editor,
Kelley Smith, about this recent study of U.S. and European patterns of work
time. The study is available at the Center's website, www.cepr.net
SMITH: How did you become interested in the issue of hours of work?
WEISBROT: CEPR has done a great deal of research over several years about work
time issues. We have generally begun with claims made in the press by
representatives of the business community. We have often developed studies that
examine those claims. eveloped studies that
examine those claims.
SMITH: What sparked your interest in a connection with ecology and work hours?
WEISBROT: I first presented the idea in 2005, and gained interest from several
members of the environmental community including Carl Pope, Executive Director
of the Sierra Club. This demonstrated to me that the environmentalists had a
stake in this question.
SMITH: Could you summarize the key findings for us?
WEISBROT: There is a simple, intuitive reasoning behind the results of this
study. When a society experiences productivity growth, as most societies do over
time, the society has a choice. The gains can be taken in the form of increased
consumption, or in the form of reduced work hours, or possibly some combination
of the two.
SMITH: Your study finds a correlation between long work hours and increased
carbon emissions. Is that mostly in the form of fuel for transportation?
WEISBROT: No, not at all. The increased carbon emissions of a society following
the U.S. model are primarily caused by higher consumption of goods. The
manufacture and transportation of goods uses a great deal of energy. The energy
use resulting from consumption of goods is much greater than the energy for
SMITH: If it's true that Europe would emit more carbon as a result of adopting
longer work hours, can we say conclusively, based on your study, that the
reverse is true? Would the U.S. emit less carbon as a result of a reduction in
WEISBROT: Yes, the results are applicable both ways.
SMITH: Thank you for taking time to share your ideas with our readers.
WEISBROT: My pleasure. I think it's great that there is this coincidence of
interest between those who care about environmentalism and those who care about
more personal time. We will be going forward with other studies in the future
that may be of interest to your readers. I hope your readers will take a look at
PEOPLE FOR A SHORTER WORKWEEK
People for a Shorter Workweek (PSW) promotes a workweek of less than 40 hours
with at least 3 days off. PSW currently has a blog (rather than a regular web
site) that lists important links as well as helpful information about the
shorter workweek, job sharing, healthcare benefits, a simple lifestyle, going
car-free, the importance of leisure and other topics! We also highlight
companies that offer a shorter workweek in the USA.
You can reach us via our blog,
or email at
. PSW also has an extensive booklist that is available.
Email us for more information or call 419.831.1038. PSW supports Take Back Your
Time and the Work to Live vacation campaign.
President and Founder
People for a Shorter Workweek
IN THE NEWS
January 25, 2007
The Communicator Awards is an international awards program founded by
communications professionals to recognize excellence in the communications
field. Two of the 2006 Bioneers radio series won an Award of Distinction
designated "for projects that exceed industry standards in quality and
excellence." The series also won both the Crystal Award of Excellence and Award
of Distinction in 2005.
The first show, Time is Not Money: Waking from the Workaholic American
, asks: What are the most precious resources on Earth? Oil? Gold?
Water? Is time our real gold? Author Vicki Robin faced a life-threatening
illness and awakened to the true value of time. John De Graaf, producer of the
film and book Affluenza: The All Consuming Epidemic
, charts how U.S.
residents spend time very differently from Europeans. Together they examine what
would the alternative to overwork and the workaholic American dream look like.
January 21, 2007
AREA DISTRICTS MULLING FOUR-DAY SCHOOL WEEK IMPACT ON PARENTS, STUDENTS, STAFF
AMONG CONSIDERATIONS, by Russ Keen, Aberdeen American News
Schools in northeast South Dakota might switch to a four-day school week.
Four-day week for students would give teachers a full day for preparation and
training, and give students a day for extracurricular activities. School
officials are examining how the four-day week might affect students, families,
January 17, 2007
NEW QUEST IN BRITISH POLITICS: PUBLIC HAPPINESS, by Mark Rice-Oxley, The
Christian Science Monitor
Efforts to measure happiness, or subjective well-being (SWB), are more
sophisticated than ever. Politicians in Great Britain are starting to take the
idea seriously, and are considering incorporating the measures of SWB into
policy making. Read the article at
January 11, 2007
WORK FAMILY: REASONS TO HOLD OUT HOPE FOR BALANCING WORK, HOME, by Sue
Shellenbarger, The Wall Street Journal
Shellenbarger reports, "The national mood on work-life issues is among the
grimmest I've seen in 15 years writing this column." But, she manages to find
three trends that hold hope for positive changes. First, informal flexibility --
rigid plans, touted in the 90's such as job-sharing are not in vogue. Second,
for those who care for elderly family members, in-home monitoring devices can
help alert someone who is at work if a loved one needs assistance. And finally,
some firms are embracing telecommuting as a way of accommodating the needs of
workers and keeping the business running efficiently.
January 3, 2007
WAL-MART SEEKS NEW FLEXIBILITY IN WORKER SHIFTS, by Kris Maher, The Wall
Nation's largest private employer is implementing a scheduling system that will
move employees from a predictable work schedule to a system based on the number
of customers in stores at any given time. The system integrates various data to
predict how many workers will be needed at any given hour. This is a new attempt
to cut cost and attain new efficiencies. But at what cost to employees who will
have even less predictable schedules, creating potential havoc to their family
December 20, 2006
ECON-ATROCITY: THE HIGH COST OF THE HOLIDAYS by Helen Scharber, Staff Economist,
Center for Popular Economics
Americans spent hundreds of billions over the holidays. Is all this spending
making us happy or contributing to stress? Check out Scharber's article at:
From Villa Park, IL
While going through the letters people had written, I know that the issue of
stress becomes especially acute around the holiday season. Why not launch a
campaign to get the U.S. to adopt Boxing Day? For those who do not know, in
Britain and many of its former commonwealth nations, including Canada and
Australia, this is the day after Christmas, which is another official holiday in
these countries. In fact all through Europe this is a day off under different
names, while here in the U.S. it is right back to business as usual. This would
give most people an extra day to recover from the rigors of preparing for the
celebration of Christmas.
From Chilton, WI
I will genuinely be taking back my time (retirement is here). As are so many
baby boomers, I will be seeking some employment - but I need to keep the beliefs
and goals of your organization in front of me...because I can get into my work
more than is healthy for me. Thank you all that you do. And I look forward to
continue supporting your efforts!
From Laurel, MD
I recently reduced my work hours from 32 to 28 hours per week. I told my boss I
needed that extra hour a day... to go work out or something. When she granted my
request (am now a 7/8 employee, still qualify for full benefits, health
insurance, 401-k, profit share, Annual Leave, Sick Leave, Holiday Pay)... I
immediately went out and joined Curves! I decided to make my health MORE of a
priority and WORK/MONEY less of a priority.
THE EDITORS PAGE
By Kelley Smith
WE HAVE SO MUCH IN COMMON: ENVIRONMENTALISTS AND TAKE BACK YOUR TIME ARE
My want-to-read list grows faster than I can manage. The most recent book I
added is Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning
by George Monbiot. A
review of the book caught my attention, and it underscored, for me, the
similarity of the dilemmas faced by environmentalists and TBYT'ers. Monbiot
makes a very astute observation about human nature. He tells us that Al Gore's
documentary, An Inconvenient Truth
, is almost always met with great
enthusiasm. It appears that most audiences are in agreement with Gore. They want
action now to stop global warming. They want their elected representatives to
solve the problem! How is it then, that we continue to elect people who, in
fact, do not do much about global warming? Monbiot's answer is that we know/em>
what stopping global warming would really mean -- completely changing our way of
life. No dry cleaning, no take-out food in convenient Styrofoam containers, no
automatic clothes dryers, no throw-away juice bottles, plastic silverware,
disposable dozen-blade razors.... Of course, to environmentalists, this future
sounds like paradise! But how many people are really willing to wash all their
own dishes, launder all their own clothes, give up a car, and all the rest?
AAs I thought about Monbiot's words, another book came to mind, Arlie Russell
Hochschild's 1997 book, The Time Bind. Her description of the "time
famine" was not so very different. Everyone "needed more time" then and still
does! Hochschild examined schedules and lifestyles of individuals who worked for
a company that attempted to implement family-friendly work schedules. Hochschild
found that most employees who tried alternative work schedules soon returned to
their old schedules. Hochschild concluded that it is just easier to go to work
in an office where someone else is paid to clean up, than to spend more time at
home with belligerent teenagers or cranky toddlers. (This is my paraphrase of
her conclusion and not her exact words.) Almost everyone can blame the
government for not mandating family leave or criticize big business (both of
which I enjoy, how about you?). But how many people are willing to forego the
immediate gratification of a paycheck and opt for the long-term goal of a richer
family life, accompanied by a leaner paycheck?
It would be unfair to say we are all victims of our own selfishness. An
environmentalist cannot give up a car unless the community provides public
transportation. Likewise, employees cannot reduce work hours unless employers
change workplace policies. Still, some soul searching is in order. Saying "I
would if I could but I can't." can begin to have a hollow ring to it.
And that brings us to that uncomfortable place where the personal meets the
political. Following one's convictions always begins with "me". Then, sooner or
later, we find we cannot live according to our convictions unless we find a
community of like-minded friends. That is why a phrase like "More Time, Less
Carbon" sounds so good!