Monday, August 20, 2007

What's the Economy for, Anyway?

This conference information is from the Take Back Your Time web site:

October 5-7, 2007

WHERE: Washington DC Convention Center (part of the annual Green Festival)

COST: $35 (entire conference, advance registration) or $50 (entire conference, no advance registration or $25 per day). Conference fee includes free admission to Green Festival.
What’s the economy for, anyway? Is it just about having the biggest GDP or the highest Dow Jones Average? Or is it about providing for a healthy, happy, fair and sustainable society? If you think quality of life matters, and wonder how the United States compares to other countries when it comes to providing for its people, then the WHAT’S THE ECONOMY FOR, ANYWAY? conference is for you!

Dozens of prominent experts and activists will offers parts of the answer to the big question and offer out-of-the-box ideas about what we can do to make our economy serve us instead of vice-versa. Three tracks include FINDING HAPPINESS, SEEKING JUSTICE and SECURING SUSTAINABILITY.

Nearly 100 confirmed prominent speakers, including the following:
Gar Alperovitz, author of America After Capitalism
Dean Baker, author of The United States Since 1980
Peter Barnes, co-founder of Working Assets and author of Capitalism 3.0
Jared Bernstein, director of The Economic Policy Institute
Chuck Collins, founder, United for a Fair Economy
Ann Crittenden, author of The High Price of Motherhood
John de Graaf, National Coordinator of Take Back Your Time
Riane Eisler, author of The Real Wealth of Nations, The Chalice and the Blade
Nancy Folbre, feminist economist, author of The Invisible Heart
Kim Gandy, President of the National Organization for Women

Tim Kasser, psychologist, author of The High Price of Materialism
Karen Kornbluh, Policy Director for Senator Obama
Celinda Lake, Democratic pollster, author of What Women Really Want
James Lardner, editor of Inequality Matters

Eric Liu, former presidential speechwriter and domestic adviser for Bill Clinton
Hunter Lovins, co-author of Natural Capitalism
Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy, The End of Nature
David Moberg, Senior Editor, In These Times
Frances Moore Lappe, author of Diet for a Small Planet, Hope's Edge
Julie Nelson, author Economics for Humans
Karen Nussbaum, AFL-CIO, former director, Women's Bureau, US Dept. of Labor
Michael Petit, former Maine Commissioner of Human Services
Miles Rapoport, director, DEMOS

Jerome Ringo, President of Apollo Alliance
Vicki Robin, author of Your Money or Your Life
Joe Robinson, author of Work to Live:  The Guide to Getting a Life
Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, co-author of The Motherhood Manifesto
Jim Rubens, former Republican State Senator, New Hampshire
Juliet Schor, author of The Overworked American, Born to Buy
Bill Spriggs, Chairman, Economics Department, Howard University

John Stauber, author of Trust Us, We're Experts, Weapons of Mass Deception
The conference offers 25 individual speeches and nearly 30 workshops.
To see the complete agenda, go to:

The conference offers nearly 30 workshops. Workshops will include in-depth analysis of current problems, comparisons to the economic performance of other industrial countries, and concrete policy solutions for a happier, healthier, most just and sustainable United States. Conference organizers hope that this conference will mark the beginning of a new national campaign to put the question, “What’s the economy for, anyway?” on the agenda of the 2008 election campaigns and beyond.

Whether you consider yourself an environmentalist, an advocate of social justice, family-friendly policies or universal health care, a union organizer or enlightened business leader, a practitioner of simple living, a student of economics, psychology or politics, a journalist or a wonk, a Democrat, Republican or Green, this conference is for you.

The “What’s the Economy for, Anyway?” project is a program of the Forum on Social Wealth. Financial support comes from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Definition of Shorter Workweek

Some people believe that 4 ten-hour days with Fridays off is a shorter workweek. This is incorrect. The standard in the United States is 40 hours per week. It could be 5 days (8 hours per day), 4 days (10 hours per day) or the alternate 9 schedule. Any way you look at it, 40 hours per week is NOT a shorter workweek.. A shorter workweek is a workweek UNDER 40 hours, which is what People for a Shorter Workweek promotes.

The problem with trying to compress the workweek into four days is working 10 hours per day is too long. Also, many companies that offer this compressed workweek only give a 30-minute lunch break, which is hardly enough time to recuperate after working five hours. The 10 hour per day schedule means a person is away from their home 12-14 hours. Even the alternate 9 schedule is a long day for most people (having every other Friday off).

A more sane schedule is 32 hours per week (four 8 hour days), allowing employees three days off. Since most people can't get their errands done during the week, they must do them on weekends. Running errands is work. People need time to relax and only having one day off isn't enough (when you are using the other day to run errands).

If we can't get a shorter workweek, let's at least work on getting more vacation time in the US. Unlike Europe, the US does not have a vacation law, so most Americans might get one or two weeks vacation per year, and because of layoffs and mergers, many people have lost their 4-5 week vacations.


The Work Less Party of Canada promotes a 4-day, 32-hour workweek.

The Five Day Weekend group from Asheville, NC promotes a 2-day workweek.

Take Back Your Time has launched a campaign for a vacation law in the US!

If you are interested in getting your life back and having more time off, please support these organizations! The links to these sites are on the left side of this blog.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Five-Day Weekend Organization in Asheville, NC

I just found out about a new group in Asheville, NC that supports a five-day weekend, with two days of work.

Here's some information from their web site:

"The major goal of the Five Day Weekend is simple: We want to reverse the U.S. workweek so that Americans clock in for two good days of work, followed by five well-earned days off.

Why? Because overwork has become a major problem for Americans, and it's getting worse by the year. The two-day weekend was created in 1930, and despite decades of unparalleled technology growth, our people are actually working more and more each year."

For more information about this organization, visit

If you can successfully live off money earned in two days per week, then the Five-Day Weekend is a great idea! It might take living with several roommates, making all your own meals instead of eating out, shopping at thrift stores, driving an old car or going car-less, etc. It's all about making choices. In my opinion, part-time work is a great idea. Just don't expect to get a full benefit package, although you could get some benefits, depending upon the company you work for. You might also want to be your own boss and forget the benefits. After all, if you have five days off each week, it's like having a vacation every week. When you work less, you have less stress and less illness, so the benefits may not be as important as having the time off. Time off is the greatest benefit!

Commentary: Work Time and Global Warming

By Charles Siegel (05-08-07)

As part of the Measure G process, Berkeley should consider policies to give employees the option of down-shifting economically by working less. Though it is not much talked about, choice of work hours is one key to dealing with global warming.

Today, the economy must grow in tandem with increased productivity, regardless of how much people actually want to consume. Because of improved technology, the average American worker produces about 2.3 percent more in an hour each year— which means that a worker produced eight times as much each hour in 2000 as in 1900. As long as work time remains constant, total output per worker grows by 2.3 percent a year, doubling every 33 years.

Reductions in greenhouse gas emissions through conservation and cleaner fuels are likely to be overwhelmed by this constant increase in output. To stabilize world climate, we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions dramatically during this century, and there is little or no chance of doing this if per capita output grows eight-fold during this century. An alternative to this hyper-growth economy is to give people the option of reducing their work hours. This opens the possibility of using increased productivity to work fewer hours, rather than to produce and consume more. Yet most Americans today have no choice of work hours. Almost all good jobs are full time, while most part-time jobs have low pay and no benefits. The economist Juliet Schor found that, if the average American male worker reduced his hours by 20 percent, he would reduce his earnings by 50 percent, because part-time workers have lower wages and fewer benefits. (The average female worker would reduce her earnings by a bit less, because women are more likely to have worked part-time during part of their lives, and so they are already discriminated against.) To give people the opportunity to choose to work shorter hours, we need to:

• End discrimination against part-time workers. By law, part-time workers should have the same hourly earnings as full-time workers and should have equivalent benefits, seniority, and chance of promotion. The European Union already protects part-time workers from discrimination.

• Create high-quality part-time jobs: The Netherlands and Germany have laws saying that, if a full-time employee asks to work shorter hours, the employer must accommodate the request unless it will be a hardship to the business. As a weaker but still effective policy, we could give businesses tax incentives to their employees the option of working shorter hours. These policies would give Americans the option of working less and consuming less. Even a relatively small change could make a big difference.

The average American works 1,817 hours a year, and the average West European works 1,562 hours a year. A recent study by Harvard University economist Mark Weisbrot found that, if Americans worked as few hours as West Europeans, it would lower our energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent. More important, Weisbrot found that, if the developing nations imitate the American model of work hours, world temperatures will rise 4.5 degrees by 2050, all else being equal. But if the developing nations imitate the European model of work hours, world temperatures will rise by 2.5 degrees—a very substantial difference caused by work-time alone, apart from other policies to reduce emissions.

Moving to a European model of work hours would not involve any great sacrifice. On the contrary, I think that West Europeans are better off than Americans because they have more time for their families and their own interests, rather than having more freeways and bigger SUVs.

Berkeley took a leading role in promoting the civil rights movement and feminist movement during the 20th century. Now it is time for us to take a leading role in promoting the movement toward shorter work hours and simpler living that is a political imperative during the age of global warming.

Charles Siegel is the author of The End of Economic Growth.

NOTE: This article is from The Berkeley Daily Planet, Berkeley, California. For a more complete version of this article with graphs, see

Monday, March 26, 2007

Companies Allow Flexible Schedules

This was from a recent article on by Michelle Kosinski:

Best Buy corporate has invented a system called ROWE — Results-Only Work Environment — in which you go to the office only when you want to. The end result — how much you get done — is all that matters. Best Buy says productivity has jumped 35 percent, with turnover and low morale all but gone.

At Sun Microsystems they've saved some $400 million in real estate costs by allowing nearly half of all employees to work anywhere they want.

And at IBM, on any given day 42 percent of the global workforce does not go to the workplace.

MY NOTE: Even though these companies allow flextime, this doesn't necessarily mean employees are working shorter hours; in fact, they could be working more; however having flexibility in your schedule means less stress and certainly a happier employee!

Charles Siegel's Report on Work Time & Global Warming

Charles Siegel, the Director of The Preservation Institute in Berkeley, California,
has written a brief paper saying that shorter work hours are a key to dealing with
global warming. Here is the link for his report:

This is a four-page booklet written to make the general public aware of the issues
that are involved. Charles supports choice of work hours rather than a shorter
standard workweek for several reasons.

ON SOCIAL GROUNDS: The standard work week is a relic of a time when families
generally were supported by one bread winner, but families are much more diverse
today. There is no reason for a father supporting a wife and three children to work
the same number of hours as a childless couple with two incomes.

ON POLITICAL GROUNDS: Changing the standard work week creates political problems,
because labor wants shorter hours without less pay, which business resists.
Allowing choice of work hours avoids this problem and focuses the political debate
on the real issue, that people should have the option of downshifting economically
and consuming less.

ON ECONOMIC GROUNDS: Choice of work hours allows people to maximize their own
well-being by choosing between more consumption and more free time. This is similar
to the economic choice between any two commodities. It is a very basic point of
economic theory that, if you require people to consume a given amount, you reduce
overall well-being. If we required everyone to buy a given amount of roast beef,
we would reduce the well being of people who don't like roast beef, and if we
require everyone to work a given number of hours, we reduce the well-being of
people who want to consume less (or more)overall than the average person.

ON POLITICAL AND SOCIAL GROUND AGAIN: As a reaction to global warming, there could
be a strong voluntary simplicity movement during the 21st century. Many people could
decide to work less and consume less to save the world's environment. But people
can make this decision only if they have choice of work hours. A voluntary
simplicity movement has to be based on this voluntary choice.

This blog entry was written by Charles Siegel of The Preservation Institute, Berkeley,
California. E-mail:

Thank you, Charles for sending me this information via the Shorter Worktime Group.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Shorter Workweek & the Environment

Here is the link to a recent report from the CEPR (Center for Economic & Policy Research in Washington, DC) on shorter work hours and the environment. The title of the report is Are Shorter Work Hours Good for the Environment? A Comparison of U.S. and European Energy Consumption.

In my opinion, the shorter workweek will give us more time, energy and reduce stress. It will also be good for the environment, as we will have one or more days per week where we are not commuting to a job. When we are not commuting via car, truck or bus, we are conserving fuel and not contributing to Global Warming. There would also be a lot less congestion on the freeways, which would mean less accidents and road rage.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

How to Get Out of the 40+ Workweek: Work Part-Time!

Have you given up trying to get your employer to give you a shorter workweek? Most companies in the US are on the standard workweek of 40 hours, and if you are lucky, you get some benefits from working those 40 hours. If you want a shorter workweek of 30-32 hours, for example, you could lose your benefits. Also, if you are used to a good salary, it may be hard for you to just give up your job. Remember, working 40+ hours per week gives you little time for family, friends, animal friends and leisure pursuits. Working too much can cause serious health problems as well.

For those of you willing to give up your job and try something new, you can either apply for part-time jobs (some part-time jobs have benefits) or start your own part-time business from home. Many part-time jobs are low-paying jobs, but if you downsize and learn to live simply, you can be happier making less money and working less than making more money and working more! There's a lot of information about part-time jobs on the Internet. Just Google the word "part-time" and see what comes up!

Also, once you start working part-time, you will be surprised at how much more relaxed you will be. There's more time for everything in your life when you work less! There are so many things you can do to cut back on your expenses: give up cable TV, magazine and newspaper subscriptions, etc. What about trading in your new, expensive car for a nice, used one or get rid of your car completely and buy a scooter, motorcycle or bicycle? You can downsize and live in a smaller home, and all your utility bills will be less when you live in a smaller space.

Some states have an insurance plan for people who meet certain income guidelines. If you work less and make less, chances are that you might qualify for their health plan too. You might also qualify for a reduction in your utility bills if your income is low. Do you want to work out and stay in shape? Some YMCA's offer a plan for people with low income and may have a scholarship as well. Always ask if there's any discount for low income.

The bottom line is don't be fearful of making less money. Give part-time work a try and see what happens. Also, as you get older, you probably will not want to work full-time. You may have heard stories of people working so hard, then they retired at 65 and dropped dead a few weeks later. My sister told me a story of a manager who worked in her company. He worked many years as a manager for this company. When he retired recently, they had a retirement party for him, and two weeks later, he was dead! Cause of death: heart attack. If you want to be a workaholic, go right ahead, but watch out. You can work, work, work and have more money, but what good is it if you've lost your health as a result?

Remember, Work LESS, Play MORE, Enjoy LIFE! That's our motto!