Sen. Grothman, Rep. Mason Debate 7-Day Work Week Bill

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Sen. Grothman, Rep. Mason Debate 7-Day Work Week Bill

Premiere Date: 
January 17, 2014

The bill would allow manufacturing and retail workers the option to work 7 straight days.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

On the employment front, two Republican state lawmakers have authored a bill that would allow a seven straight day work week in Wisconsin. Current law requires one 24-hour day of rest for factory and retail workers. Republican senator Glenn Grothman of West Bend is one of the authors. Democratic state representative Cory Mason of Racine blasts the idea. They join us here in Madison. Thanks for doing so.

Cory Mason:

Thanks for having us.

Glenn Grothman:

Glad to be on the show.

Frederica Freyberg:

You're both members of the joint finance committee, so before we begin with this new bill of yours, I wanted to ask you both your response to the surplus that we're looking at and what you think the state ought do with that. First to you, Senator.

Glenn Grothman:

Well, first of all, it's a bonus in that it shows the economy is doing-- at least in Wisconsin, the economy is doing a lot better than the experts told us. It mean we’re getting a lot more sales tax revenue, income tax revenue, than experts felt just seven months ago. So it's good news. I think one of the things that has frustrated Governor Walker, while he has a very good record on taxes, when you inherit such a deficit you really can't cut taxes as much as you want. This gives us an opportunity to hopefully get out of the top ten in taxes in the country, really a significant tax cut. I don't think now is the time to punish the taxpayer, but to say, hey, you've put up with these high taxes for a long time. Let's shave that property tax a little. Let's shave back income tax a little and really watch the economy take off.

Frederica Freyberg:

Representative Mason?

Cory Mason:

I'd like us to be in the top ten for jobs and job creation. We're still lagging far behind, still 37th in the country on jobs when it was-- we were 11th when the governor took office. I mean, I think the focus really needs to be on how we're going to get people back to work and in a place where people are in the middle class again. And if you look at where that money was initially cut, we should return it to those taxpayers who had it cut from their earned tax credit or homestead credit or those parents who are sending their kids to public schools or those workers who needed job training at the technical colleges. So we should return it to the taxpayers, but we should return it in a way that's actually going to get people back to work and back on their feet.

Frederica Freyberg:

All right, well, we know that we will discuss this further in the days and weeks ahead. Let's move along then to the bill at hand we invited you here to speak about, and that is this bill that has to do with allowing employees to work seven straight days in a row, because current law calls for a day of rest in each week. Senator Grothman, why do you put forward this bill?

Glenn Grothman:

Well, we were approached by the manufacturers who have some employees-- and they wish they could let them work seven days a week. Now we understand already on farms you can work seven days a week, and restaurants you can work seven days a week. But in manufacturing, which really where the good-paying jobs are, if you're at a point in your life where you want to work that seventh day, maybe you wan to pay for your kid’s education, maybe you want a little bigger house. Right now in Wisconsin, unlike over 40 other states, we say, no, it's against the law to work that seventh day. I realize a lot of people wouldn't want to.  Realize a lot of people don't need that money. I think a lot of people that are criticizing the bill are kind of well-off people who say, I wouldn't work on Sunday. But if you are somebody who wants that extra time and a half or double time, I think it's kind of mean to say, no, it's against the law to do that in the state of Wisconsin.

Frederica Freyberg:

Representative Mason, what do you think about it?

Cory Mason:

I think workers have taken it on the chin pretty hard in the last few years in this state. And I think this piles on to that. This is a protection that was hard-fought and it’s been in statutes for 95 years. It recognizes people need a day off, especially in heavy manufacturing, if not for workplace safety, just to spend time with their family, or go to exercise their freedom of religion and go to church on Sunday. But it's something that we've had for a long time in this state, and it was hard-fought. And I think it's time that we think about how to get more people back to work and pay them more without asking them to work every single day of the week.

Frederica Freyberg:

You know, one think-- Go ahead.

Glenn Grothman:

Well, I mean, Cory, look, right now I talk to lots of people working two or three jobs. Why can't people work, if they want to, that seventh day a week in a factory and get time and a half or double time, rather than if they want to work extra, they have to take a third job at a convenience store and work for eight bucks an hour? I'd rather have that person, if they want to, have the option to make $20 or $25 or $30 an hour at time and a half or double time in a factory than have to work for eight buck an hour at the convenience store..

Cory Mason:

I'd rather people got paid a decent enough wage that they can raise their family without having to work seven days a week to do it. If that's really the extent of the ideas that you and the Republican party have to get people in to the middle class, I think we're in real trouble. I think that in this state people have the right to expect they'll get at least one day off a week, and they shouldn't have to work until they drop, especially these in manufacturing settings where there's work safety reasons why you want to give people a day off, to say nothing to acknowledge their basic humanity.

Frederica Freyberg:

It would be voluntary on the part of the employee, right?

Glenn Grothman:

Absolutely voluntary.

Frederica Freyberg:

I'd love to have those extra shifts, please sign me up for seven days a week.

Glenn Grothman:

Right.

Frederica Freyberg:

What about the argument that, you know, if you're not the one raising your hand the highest and the hardest to take those seven days, you might look like a slacker.

Glenn Grothman:

I don't think we have that problem right now with regular overtime. I don't think we have that problem on farms or restaurants where you can work seven days a week. I think normally what happens is some employees, a minority, admittedly, but we have those people, for example, in the prison system, a lot of people do like that overtime. If people want the overtime, okay, go for it. It shouldn't be against the law to ask for that overtime. We shouldn't say no. If you want some extra money, you have to go work at the convenience store for eight bucks an hour on Sunday rather than, you're free to grab that $20, $25 an hour at the factory.

Frederica Freyberg:

Representative Mason, over time it seems-- it kind of-- I can't imagine the WMC, or the business that they represent, would be all for overtime, because any employer I've ever worked for from whom I got overtime wanted to avoid that at all costs. So what do you think WMC might think of next for employees?

Cory Mason:

I mean, I don't know what's next. I know on this supposedly WMC is asking for it. I've yet to hear from a single company that specifically wants to do this. Maybe we'll hear from that in the days to come. But your point's a good one. If employers need more hours, they should hire more workers. That would be to the benefit of everyone. But expecting workers, even if it's voluntary, to work seven days a week when in my own hometown paper has already editorialized-- You’re going to put people in a position where they’re competing against a person who will work seven days a week. And if you want to go to church or be with your family or just need a day of rest, you're at a disadvantage for promotions, or maybe you're in a bad spot if the employer ever has to cut back because you're the person who doesn't volunteer to work seven days a week.

Frederica Freyberg:

Do you buy that, Senator Grothman?

Glenn Grothman:

No. We already have this situation in the restaurant world, the farm world, and I never hear any complaints about it. We have that situation in state government, where there are a lot of places in which people want to grab the overtime, like I said, if they're a prison guard. And the idea of saying you can't do that is wrong. A lot of times it's a temporary thing. You can't hire a worker if you want to put on an extra shift or something for three weeks or a month or, you know,  three months at a time. You want that experienced person.

Frederica Freyberg:

How is this going over with members of your party?

Glenn Grothman:

Well, we have, you know, quite a few people cosponsoring it. To be honest, when we introduced this bill, there were a variety of labor law changes that management wanted. And we didn't want to deal with a lot of controversial bills this session, so we grabbed what we thought was the most uncontroversial. To be honest. We thought, if somebody wants to work seven hours a week, who's going to deny him? Who’s going to say,  no, we’re against freedom. It’s against the law. But I guess we were wrong.  Even bills we thought would be uncontroversial become controversial.

Cory Mason:

Even God gave everyone a day off. Wisconsin should stick to its six-day work week that we've had for 95 years.

Frederica Freyberg:

All right, we need to leave it there. Thank you both


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