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Laboring to Balance Work and Family

September 06, 2004

Re "All Work and No Play Is the U.S. Way," Commentary, Aug. 30: Joan Williams and Ariane Hegewisch cut right to the heart of what should be a major campaign issue, our culture of overwork. It always fascinated me that our largely Republican captains of industry, while supporting "family values" candidates, generally do not offer family-friendly places of employment. Of course, the Democrats do not seem to have much to say on this issue, either.

I suggest that Williams and Hegewisch consider that the business school at their university is one of the sources of this problem.

As far as the typical MBA is concerned, there is no difference between human capital (economists called workers "labor units" when I was in school) and other forms of capital. Hence, the employee is just another piece of equipment (why buy three when we can make one do the job?) to be used up and tossed out.

Is it any wonder that in France (that county we love to vilify!), where the average worker actually enjoys more protections and benefits than the typical typewriter, the output per man-hour is higher?

Bill Friedman

Studio City

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Instead of obsessing about what happened on Swift boats more than 30 years ago, many of us would appreciate hearing from the Democrats about what happens to a family when Mom and Dad are working all the time and about the corporate greed that created this appalling state of affairs.

I remember when a wife and mother actually had a choice about working or not. She no longer does. Middle-class families now require two incomes to provide a decent standard of living and good healthcare.

As a social worker in Los Angeles for more than 30 years, I have seen the negative effect of this sociological change on family life. Too many parents struggle to satisfy the demands on their time, with little available time for their families and almost no time for leisure. And this situation exists while the chief executive officer of a major U.S. company is paid more than 400 times what the average worker is paid in the same company.

Any candidate who speaks to middle-class America about this issue has my vote.

Gloria Richman

Santa Monica

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