What would you say to working 35 hours a week while still getting paid for 40?

I've not seen a story that details what American workers would say to such a change but the guess is that a high percentage would say it's something they would like.

In Iceland, where there are only about 200,000 workers, it's reported that 86% of the workforce has either made such a change or has contracts that allow them to negotiate such a plan without having their pay reduced.

A four-year trial of about 2,500 workers showed there was no loss in productivity. Things such as shorter, more-focused meetings were tried, some meetings were replaced with email or other electronic correspondence, and coffee breaks were shortened or eliminated. (Yay! I don't drink coffee and thought such breaks were silly, the same as breaks to have a smoke.)

Employees reportedly said they felt less stress and had an improved work-life balance, whatever that is. You'll have to believe Iceland's Association for Sustainable Democracy, and the United Kingdom-based think tank Autonomy, for coming up with "work-life balance."

One worker cited increased respect for individuals, along with recognition that workers have desires, private lives, families and hobbies. C'mon, working seven hours a day instead of eight reminds us that people have families and hobbies, as well as desires? That sounds fishy.

Cutting back on hours gained some prominence during the pandemic, some companies doing so, although others have long advocated such a move. For instance, a New Zealand company completed a year-long trial of working only four days a week without cutting pay. Both Spain and Scotland are planning trials to subsidize employers that gave their employees a day off each week. There has also been talk in Japan of doing that, Microsoft in Japan conducting a month-long trial of a four-day week that, the company said, resulted in 40% more productivity.

The New Zealand company that did the trial of a four-day week provided lockers for cellphones, soundproof meeting places, and allowed employees to put a red flag in their pencil holders that meant an employee did not want to be disturbed. The CEO of that company reported that employees' time on non-work websites fell by 35%.

A manufacturing company in Pennsylvania went to 35 hours, with the same pay, and expected increased labor costs of 12% or more but found the increase was only 3%, due to more efficiency,

A trial program in Sweden in a large city found workers working six hours a day instead of eight, at the same pay. That program was eventually scrapped because it was deemed too costly.

We know that for years many farmers had work weeks of 60 to 70 hours or more. A long day in the fields, after milking in the morning, could be followed by milking again at night, farmers I knew in Sherburne County in the 1960s listening in the barn to night games of the Minnesota Twins while completing their nightly milking. Vacations? Unheard of for many decades among many farmers.

A six-day work week in the United States was the norm until the early 1900s, many looking down on those companies that went to five-day weeks. When the Ford company went to five days instead of six in 1926 a prominent CEO wrote that " the men of our country are becoming a race of softies and mollycoddles." (Back then the definition of a mollycoddle was an "an effeminate or ineffectual man or boy.")

In 1933 during the Great Depression a federal bill was passed capping the work week at 30 hours to keep more people working as companies laid off workers. Five years later a federal bill was passed that mandated higher pay for anything beyond 40 hours. But it was a still a badge of honor in the United States if you worked lots of hours. 

Other countries have been ahead of the U.S. in cutting hours. In 1975 workers in Germany and the United States worked about the same number of hours. Now, roughly, German workers put in 400 fewer hours a year than those in the U.S., and also have more paid vacation and holidays.

One way to fix things, some say, is a fairer distribution of profits, citing the ridiculous salaries and benefits of many CEOs, compared to the workers who work long hours to give companies their huge profits. 

A recent study by one group shows the average American works 38.6 hours.  A study by another company had a higher figure of about 44.5 hours. The second study showed 29% of Americans working 45 to 59 hours, with 16% at 60 or more.

If a switch was made to 35 hours in America, or to four eight-hour days, let's say (there are many companies today where employees work four 10-hour days), there would be more time with family that some would like, and more leisure time. Some, of course, would seek a second job, possibly to  put money away for an earlier retirement, or simply to pay the family's bills.

And, of course, if lots of companies went to four days a week instead of five, we know what might happen: A push for three days a week would be just around the corner.

Twins tease with a good game here and there

It's Sunday, July 4th, and the Minnesota Twins are at the halfway point in the 2021 schedule with a record of 33-48, a record no one would have predicted back in March. Quick figuring shows the team would need a 57-24 mark in the second half of the season (unreachable .704 percentage) to get 90 wins for the season, thus perhaps earning the team a wild card spot for the playoffs. It ain't gonna happen. 

What follows for those of you interested in Twins baseball are some notes, in no particular order, about the team, an opposing player and former players.There will be no rhyme or reason, just opinions and observations. For example, I made a note last week wondering why Matt Shoemaker, Randy Dobnak and J.A. Happ were still on the roster. Since then Shoemaker has been released, Dobnak (1-6 record, 7.83 ERA) is on the  injured list and Happ is still around with an ERA over 6. (Late note: He pitched well Thursday in a 5-3 win over Detroit, a team that is three games ahead of the Twins in the standings, a team that won more games in June than the Twins.)

Until his last couple starts, the Twins were 10-2 in games started by Jose Berrios, 21-38 in games started by others. (Another late note: He pitched what I think was his best game of the season on Tuesday, giving up only one hit and striking out 10 in 7 innings — and the Twins lost to division-leading Chicago.) It's been that kind of season. Was it a good move to let Eddie Rosario go to Cleveland. He's hitting .255, has 46 RBIs (more than anyone on the Twins) and has done it on with an offense-challenged Indian team, and had stolen 9 bases, something they didn't let him do at Minnesota. (Another late note: He's now on the injured list.)

Do you remember Danny Santana? In his rookie year in 2014 he hit .319 for the Twins and stole 20 bases as a part-time player. He hit only .215 in 2015 and was released in 2017 by the Twins. He surfaced at Texas in 2019 and in 511 at-bats hit 28 homers, had an average of .283 and drove in 81 runs as a fill-in for an injured player. Now he's with a Boston team that is leading its division, playing center field and first base, and he had a game last week with a homer and 5 RBIs. Not saying he should be with team now but I thought the Twins gave up on him too early . . . Little things make a difference. Hunter Dozier from Kansas City, with the worst average in the major leagues after an 0-2 count, got a walk in a game with the Twins a few days ago. You just can't let that happen.

Some wonder why Yankee ace reliever Aroldis Chapman has struggled lately. I have the answer. Remember the June 10 game where Josh Donaldson and Nelson Cruz hit homers off him in the 9th inning for a Twins win, Chapman giving up four straight hits? He came into that game with an ERA of 0.39 (one run in 23 innings) and had 38 strikeouts in 23 innings. He had been the top reliever in baseball. Since the Minnesota game, in 8 games and 5 2/3 innings, he has given up 10 earned runs, issued 9 walks and given up 10 hits. His ERA is 14.11 in those game and, if you count the Twins game, his ERA is 22.22 in his last nine games. Clearly (tongue in cheek) the Twins decimated his confidence and caused his recent downfall.

The Twins just lost two of three games to Kansas City, a team that began the season 16-9 and then went 17-38 in its next 55 games before taking the series last weekend against the Twins after losing nine in a row. (Another late note: The Twins are 3-2 so far this week in the second half of the season and have slipped by the Royals into fourth place in the Central Division.)

Sign of a struggling team: As of today (Sunday) the Twins have led in 30 of their 48 losses to date, including all five losses on their last road trip . . . The replay system, liked by some and not by others, needs retooling. Kenta Maeda struck out a batter in his last start, a very good start finally, but the umpire ruled the batter had fouled the ball before it went into the catcher's glove. The TV replay showed the ball had not been fouled but that kind of play is not reviewable. If you're going to have a replay system, why not?

A bunch of pitchers the Twins let go are doing well. Trevor May is 2-2 with a 3.32 ERA for the Mets and would certainly be better than some of the relievers the Twins have used in 2021. Kyle Gibson is 6-0 with a league-leading 1.98 ERA with Texas, and Rich HIil, who was hurt with the Twins in 2020 but had an ERA of 3.03 while here, has a record of 6-3 with a 3.65 ERA for Tampa Bay. The terrible trade of Ryan Pressly to the Astros three years ago looks really bad. He is 4-1 as the Astros' closer with an ERA of 1.46 and 16 saves. He is an All-Star for the second time in three years. In the trade the Twins  got Jorge Acala (1-3, 4.68 ERA) and outfielder Gilberto Celestino (.146) who wouldn't even be on the team if Byron Buxton was healthy. Houston  easily got the best of that trade.

What a pleasure it is to listen to former Twins star pitcher Jim Kaat as an analyst on Minnesota's television broadcasts. Kaat, who won 16 straight Gold Gloves in the majors and was a 25-game winner with the Twins in 1966, averaged 250 innings a year over an eight-year stretch with the Twins (including 304 in 1966), and won 283 games in the majors, is the best ex-player as an analyst as far as I am concerned. He maintains that if today's pitchers were trained properly they could pitch every four days, as he did, and go deeper into games. (He had 19 complete games in 1966.) He told two good stories during a recent broadcast. One was about Johnny Sain, a Boston Braves pitcher who later was a pitching coach for Kaat at Minnesota and with other teams. (Sain won 20 or more games four times in a five-year stretch after serving in the military in World War II.) Kaat reminded us that Sain was the last guy to pitch to Babe Ruth (in an exhibition game) and the first to pitch to Jackie Robinson in the majors. His other story was about Earl Battey, Minnesota's catcher for the 1965 team that lost to the Dodgers in the World Series. Kaat said that once when Kaat had a 2-0 count on Yankee star Mickey Mantle, Battey then gave the sign of the cross instead of a regular sign, intimating that Kaat was in trouble with a 2-0 count to Mantle. Kaat is with the television crew through Sunday.

Friday morning, July 9: There you have it - a bunch of ramblings about the Twins, without bringing up how well Eduardo Escobar has done for Arizona since the Twins traded him for three prospects three years ago, none of whom have reached the majors. In 2019 he had 35 homers and 118 RBIs, and has 19 homers so far and has driven in 58 runs this year. Meanwhile, the Twins had a nice come-from-behind 5-3 win over Detroit Thursday night, Miguel Sano (being platooned now by manager Rocco Baldelli despite the fact he was hitting well when the platooning began) hitting another of his important homers this year to tie the game. 

Only 76 games left for our 36-50 team.  Next year will be better, right?

PRINCETON SPORTS MEMORIES

July 19, 1951 - Hoeft was the pitcher and Duckstad the catcher as Princeton beat Palmer 6-2 in town team baseball . . . A sudden overflow of the river in the park (Riverside Park) caused softball games to be postponed.

July 12 , 1956 - Dale Sternquist won the feature race as 800 fans watched races at Princeton Speedway on July 4th, a Wednesday.

July 20, 1961 - Leaders in the men's league at Rum River Golf Club were Doug Fraser and Al Bornholdt in the American League and Arnie Haehn and Dan Grisim in the National League.

July 14, 1966 - The Legion baseball team won three games, with Dennis Minks getting two of the wins as he stretched his string to 16 innings without issuing a walk. The team won its third league title in four years.

July 21, 1971 - Mike Barg pitched a 4-hitter in a 7-0 win over Braham in Legion baseball. Mike Grow and Mike Solheim each had two hits.

July 21, 1976 - Kevin VanHooser homered twice  in a 10-7 Legion baseball win over Pine City . . . Dan Kne struck out 12 in an 11-1 win over Soderville for the town team. Dale Braun and Buzz Johnson each had three hits. 

July 16, 1981 - Rick Kapsner and Tom Skarohlid played 114 holes of golf in one day at Rum River Golf Club, breaking the four-year-old record of 100 by Steve Sanborn and Mark Bornholdt.

July 17, 1986 - The Legion baseball team won the Moorhead Invitational, beating Moorhead, Burnsville and Blaine as opposing batters combined for a .113 average. Mike Sternquist pitched a 10-0 no-hitter against the Pine City Legion team and followed it up three days later with a no-hitter in a 1-0 win over Moorhead.

July 18, 1991 - Marnie DeWall pitched a no-hitter for the summer high school-age fast pitch softball team . . . A doubleheader loss to Cambridge meant no league title for the Legion baseball team, the first time that happened since 1978.

July 18, 1996 - Jeff Lund and Rick Cotter of Princeton were members of a team that won a pro-am tournament at Princeton Golf Club held by the Minnesota Professional Golf Association . . . Justin Priess (9-1) beat Cambridge in Legion baseball, 8-0, and struck out 11.

July 12, 2001 - The Legion baseball team stayed in first place in the league despite a split with Chisago Lakes. Dane Larsen had four hits in a 13-7 loss and then Brent Julson struck out 13 in a 5-1 win and drove in two runs, Adam Edmison getting three hits . . . The Princeton Panthers (18-5, 14-1 in the Eastern Minny) beat Pine City 16-3 and Quamba 13-5. Brian Julson and Brian Dorr each homered and drove in four runs in the Pine City game. Mark Beattie homered in the Quamba game and he and Chad Carling each drove in three runs. The homers kept the team's string alive of hitting at least one home run in 11 straight games, and in 20 of 21.

July 13, 2006 - The Erickson Asphalt slow pitch softball team qualified for the Class D men's national softball tournament by winning a qualifying tournament in Cambridge. The team, with a 7-7 record in the Princeton league, was 5-0 at the tournament. Jeremy Linden hit .714, Mike Henchen .706 and Adam Edmison .684 . . . The Legion baseball team was 13-3, 10-1 in league play, hitting .356 as a team and had a team ERA of 2.78. Brandon Knoll was 2-1 with an ERA of 0.62, Josh Ludwig 3-1 and 1.33, Scott Roehl 3-1 and 1.69, Ryan Danna 2-0 and 2.33 and Zach Neubauer 2-0 and 2.57.

 

July 14, 2011 - The Legion baseball team had a 3-1 week, beating Elk River 6-5, St. Francis 11-6 and Milaca 11-1, while losing 9-7 to Mora. The team got the No. 2 seed for league playoffs. Kyle Norman and Zach Ludwig each had seven hits in the four games.

July 14, 2016 - The Legion baseball team split a doubleheader with Cambridge, winning 5-2 and losing 2-1. Luke Hallbeck got the win and Damon Rademacher the save with five strikeouts in the final two innings. Jake Carlson drove in two runs.

(Dorr is the former editor of the Princeton Eagle (2 years) and Princeton Union-Eagle (31 years), and has written about sports in the area for the past 54 years.)

 

Load comments