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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

Long Work Hours, Lack of Unions Are Linked

August 13, 2004

Re "Bone-Tired? You Need a Job in Europe," Commentary, Aug. 11: I suggest that there is a correlation between the excessively long work hours of Americans and the weakness of labor unions. Temp work, the need to work two or three jobs to support a family, the decline of manufacturing and the growth of lower-paying service-sector jobs are both cause and effect of that reality. Likewise, the strength of unions in European countries is both the cause and effect of shorter work hours and longer vacations, as well as the existence of large socialist parties.

An important local example: While the need for certified nursing assistants continues to grow, little progress has been made to organize them. Many if not most CNAs work two low-paying jobs. Where is the time and energy for people to join a union in the face of virulent anti-union campaigns? The gap between the very well-off minority and the working poor, as well as the middle-class people who work 60 or 70 hours a week, continues to widen. Our increasing polarization in economic terms must lead to a rethinking of the priorities of our society.

Marjory Zimmerman

Santa Monica

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