Why Do We Need a 24/7 Economy?

By Rebecca Gordon, who teaches at the University of San Francisco. She is the author of American Nuremberg: The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes and is now at work on a new book on the history of torture in the United States. Originally published at Tom Dispatch.

In mid-October, President Biden announced that the Port of Los Angeles would begin operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, joining the nearby Port of Long Beach, which had been doing so since September. The move followed weeks of White House negotiations with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, as well as shippers like UPS and FedEx, and major retailers like Walmart and Target.

The purpose of expanding port hours, according to the New York Times, was “to relieve growing backlogs in the global supply chains that deliver critical goods to the United States.” Reading this, you might be forgiven for imagining that an array of crucial items like medicines or their ingredients or face masks and other personal protective equipment had been languishing in shipping containers anchored off the West Coast. You might also be forgiven for imagining that workers, too lazy for the moment at hand, had chosen a good night’s sleep over the vital business of unloading such goods from boats lined up in their dozens offshore onto trucks, and getting them into the hands of the Americans desperately in need of them. Reading further, however, you’d learn that those “critical goods” are actually things like “exercise bikes, laptops, toys, [and] patio furniture.”

Fair enough. After all, as my city, San Francisco, enters what’s likely to be yet another almost rainless winter on a planet in ever more trouble, I can imagine my desire for patio furniture rising to a critical level. So, I’m relieved to know that dock workers will now be laboring through the night at the command of the president of the United States to guarantee that my needs are met. To be sure, shortages of at least somewhat more important items are indeed rising, including disposable diapers and the aluminum necessary for packaging some pharmaceuticals. Still, a major focus in the media has been on the specter of “slim pickings this Christmas and Hanukkah.”

Providing “critical” yard furnishings is not the only reason the administration needs to unkink the supply chain. It’s also considered an anti-inflation measure (if an ineffective one). At the end of October, the Consumer Price Index had jumped 6.2% over the same period in 2020, the highest inflation rate in three decades. Such a rise is often described as the result of too much money chasing too few goods. One explanation for the current rise in prices is that, during the worst months of the pandemic, many Americans actually saved money, which they’re now eager to spend. When the things people want to buy are in short supply — perhaps even stuck on container ships off Long Beach and Los Angeles — the price of those that are available naturally rises.

Republicans have christened the current jump in the consumer price index as “Bidenflation,” although the administration actually bears little responsibility for the situation. But Joe Biden and the rest of the Democrats know one thing: if it looks like they’re doing nothing to bring prices down, there will be hell to pay at the polls in 2022 and so it’s the night shift for dock workers and others in Los Angeles, Long Beach, and possibly other American ports. 

However, running West Coast ports 24/7 won’t solve the supply-chain problem, not when there aren’t enough truckers to carry that critical patio furniture to Home Depot. The shortage of such drivers arises because there’s more demand than ever before, and because many truckers have simply quit the industry. As the New York Times reports, “Long hours and uncomfortable working conditions are leading to a shortage of truck drivers, which has compounded shipping delays in the United States.”

Rethinking (Shift) Work

Truckers aren’t the only workers who have been rethinking their occupations since the coronavirus pandemic pressed the global pause button. The number of employees quitting their jobs hit 4.4 million this September, about 3% of the U.S. workforce. Resignations were highest in industries like hospitality and medicine, where employees are most at risk of Covid-19 exposure.

For the first time in many decades, workers are in the driver’s seat. They can command higher wages and demand better working conditions. And that’s exactly what they’re doing at workplaces ranging from agricultural equipment manufacturer John Deere to breakfast-cereal makers Kellogg and Nabisco. I’ve even been witnessing it in my personal labor niche, part-time university faculty members (of which I’m one). So allow me to pause here for a shout-out to the 6,500 part-time professors in the University of California system: Thank you! Your threat of a two-day strike won a new contract with a 30% pay raise over the next five years!

This brings me to Biden’s October announcement about those ports going 24/7. In addition to demanding higher pay, better conditions, and an end to two-tier compensation systems (in which laborers hired later don’t get the pay and benefits available to those already on the job), workers are now in a position to reexamine and, in many cases, reject the shift-work system itself. And they have good reason to do so.

So, what is shift work? It’s a system that allows a business to run continuously, ceaselessly turning out and/or transporting widgets year after year. Workers typically labor in eight-hour shifts: 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., 4:00 p.m. to midnight, and midnight to 8:00 a.m., or the like. In times of labor shortages, they can even be forced to work double shifts, 16 hours in total. Businesses love shift work because it reduces time (and money) lost to powering machinery up and down. And if time is money, then more time worked means more profit for corporations. In many industries, shift work is good for business. But for workers, it’s often another story.

The Graveyard Shift

Each shift in a 24-hour schedule has its own name. The day shift is the obvious one. The swing shift takes you from the day shift to the all-night, or graveyard, shift. According to folk etymology, that shift got its name because, once upon a time, cemetery workers were supposed to stay up all night listening for bells rung by unfortunates who awakened to discover they’d been buried alive. While it’s true that some coffins in England were once fitted with such bells, the term was more likely a reference to the eerie quiet of the world outside the workplace during the hours when most people are asleep. 

I can personally attest to the strangeness of life on the graveyard shift. I once worked in an ice cream cone factory. Day and night, noisy, smoky machines resembling small Ferris wheels carried metal molds around and around, while jets of flame cooked the cones inside them. After a rotation, each mold would tip, releasing four cones onto a conveyor belt, rows of which would then approach my station relentlessly. I’d scoop up a stack of 25, twirl them around in a quick check for holes, and place them in a tall box.

Almost simultaneously, I’d make cardboard dividers, scoop up three more of those stacks and seal them, well-divided, in that box, which I then inserted in an even larger cardboard carton and rushed to a giant mechanical stapler. There, I pressed it against a switch, and — boom-ba-da-boom — six large staples would seal it shut, leaving me just enough time to put that carton atop a pallet of them before racing back to my machine, as new columns of just-baked cones piled up, threatening to overwhelm my worktable.

The only time you stopped scooping and boxing was when a relief worker arrived, so you could have a brief break or gobble down your lunch. You rarely talked to your fellow-workers, because there was only one “relief” packer, so only one person at a time could be on break. Health regulations made it illegal to drink water on the line and management was too cheap to buy screens for the windows, which remained shut, even when it was more than 100 degrees outside.

They didn’t like me very much at the Maryland Pacific Cone Company, maybe because I wanted to know why the high school boys who swept the floors made more than the women who, since the end of World War II, had been climbing three rickety flights of stairs to stand by those machines. In any case, management there started messing with my shifts, assigning me to all three in the same week. As you might imagine, I wasn’t sleeping a whole lot and would occasionally resort to those “little white pills” immortalized in the truckers’ song “Six Days on the Road.”

But I’ll never forget one graveyard shift when an angel named Rosie saved my job and my sanity. It was probably three in the morning. I’d been standing under fluorescent lights, scooping, twirling, and boxing for hours when the universe suddenly stood still. I realized at that moment that I’d never done anything else since the beginning of time but put ice cream cones in boxes and would never stop doing so until the end of time.

If time lost its meaning then, dimensions still turned out to matter a lot, because the cones I was working on that night were bigger than I was used to. Soon I was falling behind, while a huge mound of 40-ounce Eat-It-Alls covered my table and began to spill onto the floor. I stared at them, frozen, until I suddenly became aware that someone was standing at my elbow, gently pushing me out of the way.

Rosie, who had been in that plant since the end of World War II, said quietly, “Let me do this. You take my line.” In less than a minute, she had it all under control, while I spent the rest of the night at her machine, with cones of a size I could handle.

I have never been so glad to see the dawn.

The Deadly Reality of the Graveyard Shift

So, when the president of the United States negotiated to get dock workers in Los Angeles to work all night, I felt a twinge of horror. There’s another all-too-literal reason to call it the “graveyard” shift. It turns out that working when you should be in bed is dangerous. Not only do more accidents occur when the human body expects to be asleep, but the long-term effects of night work can be devastating. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports, the many adverse effects of night work include:

“type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, metabolic disorders, and sleep disorders. Night shift workers might also have an increased risk for reproductive issues, such as irregular menstrual cycles, miscarriage, and preterm birth. Digestive problems and some psychological issues, such as stress and depression, are more common among night shift workers. The fatigue associated with nightshift can lead to injuries, vehicle crashes, and industrial disasters.”

Some studies have shown that such shift work can also lead to decreased bone-mineral density and so to osteoporosis. There is, in fact, a catchall term for all these problems: shift-work disorder.

In addition, studies directly link the graveyard shift to an increased incidence of several kinds of cancer, including breast and prostate cancer. Why would disrupted sleep rhythms cause cancer? Because such disruptions affect the release of the hormone melatonin. Most of the body’s cells contain little “molecular clocks” that respond to daily alternations of light and darkness. When the light dims at night, the pineal gland releases melatonin, which promotes sleep. In fact, many people take it in pill form as a “natural” sleep aid. Under normal circumstances, such a melatonin release continues until the body encounters light again in the morning.

When this daily (circadian) rhythm is disrupted, however, so is the regular production of melatonin, which turns out to have another important biological function. According to NIOSH, it “can also stop tumor growth and protect against the spread of cancer cells.” Unfortunately, if your job requires you to stay up all night, it won’t do this as effectively.

There’s a section on the NIOSH website that asks, “What can night shift workers do to stay healthy?” The answers are not particularly satisfying. They include regular checkups and seeing your doctor if you have any of a variety of symptoms, including “severe fatigue or sleepiness when you need to be awake, trouble with sleep, stomach or intestinal disturbances, irritability or bad mood, poor performance (frequent mistakes, injuries, vehicle crashes, near misses, etc.), unexplained weight gain or loss.”

Unfortunately, even if you have access to healthcare, your doctor can’t write you a prescription to cure shift-work disorder. The cure is to stop working when your body should be asleep.

An End to Shift Work?

Your doctor can’t solve your shift work issue because, ultimately, it’s not an individual problem. It’s an economic and an ethical one.

There will always be some work that must be performed while most people are sleeping, including healthcare, security, and emergency services, among others. But most shift work gets done not because life depends upon it, but because we’ve been taught to expect our patio furniture on demand. As long as advertising and the grow-or-die logic of capitalism keep stoking the desire for objects we don’t really need, may not even really want, and will sooner or later toss on a garbage pile in this or some other country, truckers and warehouse workers will keep damaging their health.

Perhaps the pandemic, with its kinky supply chain, has given us an opportunity to rethink which goods are so “critical” that we’re willing to let other people risk their lives to provide them for us. Unfortunately, such a global rethink hasn’t yet touched Joe Biden and his administration as they confront an ongoing pandemic, supply-chain problems, a rise in inflation, and — oh yes! — an existential climate crisis that gets worse with every plastic widget produced, packed, and shipped.

It’s time for Biden — and the rest of us — to take a breath and think this through. There are good reasons that so many people are walking away from underpaid, life-threatening work. Many of them are reconsidering the nature of work itself and its place in their lives, no matter what the president or anyone else might wish.

And that’s a paradigm shift we all could learn to live with.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in Economic fundamentals, Free markets and their discontents, Guest Post, Income disparity on by .

About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Arizona Slim

    Funny that NC should bring this topic up.

    Yesterday, I was shopping, and I spoke with a long-time employee at the store. He was all too eager to tell me that he will be retiring in three weeks.

    Yeah, he’s old enough to retire, and I’m all for that, but I can’t help thinking that the last two years in retail were more than enough for him. I’m counting him among the workers who are reconsidering the nature of work itself.

    I’ll miss you at the store, N, but I hope you enjoy your retirement.

    1. Lee

      A lot of the old timers at my local hardware store are retiring. We’ve grown old together, their encyclopedic knowledge of hardware and tricks of many trades helping me keep my old house maintained. Fortunately, my kid is in home remodeling and now knows everything we old guys know and more.

  2. Randall Flagg

    Why do we need a 24/7 economy?

    Because I want my stuff and I want it NOW!!!

    But seriously, the negative effects of the graveyard shift should never be taken lightly. I remember numerous coworkers that did the overnights stocking at the 24 hour supermarket back in high school. The thing that compounded the bad effects of those shifts on their health was that they would try to live a regular life in their days off, further upsetting any sleeping routine they may have established during their work week. It wasn’t good at all. You could just notice them wearing out much earlier in life.
    Granted there are many jobs that need to be done or are required during overnight hours, but the jobs that are crated because of shoppers wanting stuff asap from halfway around the world?Not helpful.
    It’s a shame that that may be the only option of a job for some workers.

  3. Lee

    Heaven forfend we allow a pandemic to interfere with the delivery of patio furniture and X-mas crap. FFS, Covid in less that two years has now killed more Americans (770,000) than have been killed in direct combat in all our wars since 1775 (646,596), and the body count continues. Why has it not occurred to anyone that we might take some lessons from history and adopt some restraints that are common in war time.

    If push really came to shove we might consider this: only about 60% of our work force is engaged directly in the the production and delivery of essential goods and services. The entire U.S. work force represents only 60% of the population. Therefore, only a third of the entire population is responsible for providing the rest of us with the material necessities for maintaining and prolonging life. This provides considerably latitude in responding to dire circumstances best addressed by idling or redeploying a significant portion of the work force.

    A wealthy country like the U.S. can keep doling out assistance to an idled work force for a considerable time. We have vast stores of wealth, both financial and material. It’s just unevenly distributed.

    But no, as in 2008, no solution will be allowed that does not best serve Wall Street.

  4. anon y'mouse

    “For the first time in many decades, workers are in the driver’s seat. They can command higher wages and demand better working conditions.”

    i keep seeing (hearing?) this, but where is the actual evidence?
    one would hate for the PMC to have created a reality for themselves to make themselves feel better about the state of the world, and excuse their own failure to pass increases in the min. wage or a realistic inflation model.

    should it not prove the case, i can see it echoing off reality in the future as they all wonder why the proles are still so unhappy when they got “better jobs & better wages” not so long ago.

    as a peon would say: “put up, or shut up.”

    plus, with massive increases in rent and the current inflation biting, aren’t they just staying still even if the nominal wage they managed to get has increased?

    1. Anthony Stegman

      In my neck of the woods private equity has been buying up companies, moving jobs offshore, and suppressing the wages of those whose jobs remain here. They are experiencing no downsides to this behavior.

  5. Alex Morfesis

    But wait…my spreadsheet says if I squeeze my workers just a little harder and deprive them of just enough of their rights and intimidate them into not taking legal days off and make sure our friend$

    at A£€¢ bribe…

    oops sorry…use advanced lobbying techniques to legislate anti worker legislation…I can make my numbers and get my bonus and keep paying Natasha fatale for my private sessions now that her bgk urg work has dried up…

    As Emily used to tell us back when unions existed in America…”it just goes to show….”

  6. The Rev Kev

    Done shift work when I was younger and how it was done could suck. You might have a rotating shift where one week you are working 7 am to 3 pm, the next would be from 3 pm to 11 pm, and the final week from 11 pm to 7 am – the graveyard shift. Then rinse and repeat. The worse of all was a broken shift where you worked four hours, had a few hours off, and then did the second four hours. That played hell with organizing your life. Having said that, for several months I was often working the graveyard shift in the CBD of Sydney in Oz. It was a completely different city at night and you found interesting places to get a meal in those long hours as well as getting a chance to look at the city in a new light so to say.

    1. Lovin' the night shift, me

      > … for several months I was often working the graveyard shift in the CBD of Sydney in Oz. It was a
      > completely different city at night and you found interesting places to get a meal in those long hours
      > as well as getting a chance to look at the city in a new light so to say.

      Thank you, TRK.

      Executive summary, Rebecca Gordon: ‘I don’t like it so you shouldn’t be able to do it.’ Typical liberal.

      1. FluffytheObeseCat

        Show us where in her piece she demanded, or even argued for, any actual ban or law against night shift work. It’s right up there for everyone to read, so point out where she did it.

        I know this will shock everyone whose been living in America these past 40 years, but throwing the word ‘liberal’ in a comment doesn’t magically make false statements true.

    2. Questa Nota

      Many such towns and cities have factories that are near24-hour diners or similar places to eat, drink, relax or decompress. There are unique subcultures in each one, where shift workers, late night revelers, travelers, early birds, students and many others rotating through on their own clocks. The restaurant staff have their own language and rhythms, and many actually prefer what seem like unusual arrangements to normies. After haunting many such places, I can attest to how pancakes go well at any hour.

      Tip well because someone got up before you did, or stayed up late, or just because.

      1. Robert Gray

        “many actually prefer what seem like unusual arrangements to normies”

        ‘Normies’. ha ha. Brilliant insider/outsider slang, like ‘civilians’ used by cops (and gangsters!).

        Anyway, I lived for a while in Milwaukee in the ’70s. The local university (i.e., non-commercial) FM radio station had this completely cooled out guy named Ron Cuzner presenting a cooled out programme, mostly jazz, starting at midnight. It was called The Dark Side. His intro was the same every night: ‘Welcome … to the Dark Side … (of Saturday, December 4th)’. Cuzner was great. He had forgotten more about jazz than most ‘experts’ ever know.

      2. lordkoos

        Back when I was working regularly as a musician 2-4 nights a week, to wind down after a gig we would often hit a local all-night cafe for a meal. The 2:00am diner crowd is a different world for sure…

    3. fresno dan

      The Rev Kev
      December 4, 2021 at 9:02 am

      When I was in the USA Air Farce, in ….wait for it….wait some more, military intelligence, our shit shift work was a grave shift (11 pm to 7 am) followed by a day shift (7 am to 3 pm) and then followed by a swing shift. Shifts were in 4 day sets and 4 days off at the end (apparently, so you could get used to daytime living before you went back to the graveyard shift). Its hard to imagine how one could design a shift system to be tougher on sleep schedules, but never attribute to malice what can be explained by military intelligence….

      1. pat D

        Same here, FD. In Taiwan in the early ’70s, working as a Mandarin linguist for the AF Security Service. However, it was at the tail end of Vietnam, we were tremendously overstaffed and underworked, so the graveyard shift was rare. Nevertheless, it took a full 10 days to recover a regular sleep schedule when your time came around.

    4. c_heale

      I had a similar rotating shift and believe it was partly responsible for the cancer I got afterwards.

  7. LowellHighlander

    Looks to me as though President Biden is keeping his promise – to his donors: “Nothing fundamental will change.”

    Lord knows, repealing Taft-Hartley must not even be on Biden’s radar screen.

    I wonder whether the ALF-CIO now considers that $400 million to put the Obama/Biden ticket into the Oval Office as money well spent.

    1. drsteve0

      About that 400 mil, it depends on how much got kicked back to the union’s big kahunas. Sadly, most union leadership is every bit as corrupt as any branch of gubmit.

  8. farragut

    For my final two years of college, I worked the graveyard shift at our local hospital’s controlled-access psych ward. At that time in my life (mid-20s) it was the perfect work schedule for me. I worked from 11p – 7a, went to class from 8a – 12p, then went home to sleep. The shift was the same time each night so I thankfully didn’t have to deal with the horrors of a rotating schedule. Duties at work were relatively light each night: some easy admin/paperwork, hourly checks on patients, and getting patients & breakfast ready while the day shift assembled. I often could rely on several hours of quiet time during which I could study & finish homework. However, I can’t imagine working the graveyard shift while trying to raise a family or otherwise expect to participate in the ‘normal’ life activities occurring during the day.

    Where 24/7 operations must occur, they should be as automated as possible, obviating the need for human presence. Unfortunately, our society relies on certain occupations which probably can’t be fully automated, such as health care, police, power plant operators, or perhaps even some aspects of the supply chain such as long haul trucking. My uncle & father-in-law were both long haul truckers and despite the inconveniences, they preferred night time driving due to fewer ‘morons’ (their word) on the road.

    1. megrim

      I have a friend who worked the graveyard shift at a restaurant for like 6 years in the early 90s until his two daughters were old enough for school, so his wife could finish her degree and start her career. It was for sure a sacrifice on a couple levels.

  9. Joe Well

    I’m wondering who this article is aimed at. I think at the workers and potential workers (who might think of taking these jobs) themselves? And the action to be taken is to just say no? Is that maybe all that is left?

    The owners don’t care, the PMC don’t care, the “market” doesn’t care, “consumers” don’t care and can’t really do anything in this case anyway, the Biden/government doesn’t care or is impotent.

    And in an oligarchy, public opinion doesn’t count for much.

  10. David

    I think somebody ought to tell the author that 24/7 working has existed since approximately forever, it’s just that most of us don’t see it. The whole idea of a “normal” eight-hour working day is very recent anyway, and often confined to the middle classes. Shift-work was invented in factories because demand was higher than could be satisfied by one shift, and it was cheaper than building a separate factory.

    The post-human, the baker, the greengrocer who goes to the market, the café owner and the newspaper seller have always been up and about in the early hours of the morning. The bus driver who takes the supermarket check-out operator to work at seven in the morning has probably been up since four, as has the driver of the eight o’clock train taking the middle class to work. Come to that the cleaners in the author’s university probably start and finish their day at rather different times from those she’s accustomed to. It has always been thus, and as far as I can see always will be. Moving on, society requires 24/7 coverage from police, fire-humans, paramedics, emergency doctors, ward nurses, airport staff, power plant operators, and for that matter broadcasting staff and out-of-hours contact people for services like gas and electricity supply. I honestly don’t see the point of axing the article on the container problem, which as the author says, is essentially one of a lack of wheeled transport drivers. The idea that you can discriminate between ships carrying “useful” goods and those containing patio furniture is simply silly.

    I’ve done both shift-work and unsocial hours, in factories as well as in offices, and there’s no doubt it’s bad for your mental and physical health. Indeed, it causes people to make mistakes and do silly things: I suspect that most of the controversial police shootings, for example, happen after long hours of rotating shifts, with measurable effects on perception. But that’s another, and much more serious issue, than the one being (rather incoherently) discussed here.

  11. Quentin

    This thread reminds of the time several years ago when walking to the supermarket for whipped cream I realised how absurd it seemed to be looking for a nutritionally luxury product assuming the supermarket could satisfy my every whim. How angry and disappointed I’d have been if I found no whipped cream in stock. Today that would be blamed on China or Russia.

  12. We-Time

    We have lived in both Russia and Mexico, in both more or less 24/7 cities but moved to Germany a few years ago. All shops are closed on Sundays, only restaurants and cafés are open as well as some emergency pharmacies and similiar. And it is such a relief! Weekends we get to spend with familiy and friends instead of being in shops losing valuable life-time. Just wonderful and I would recommend it to any city in the world.

  13. Thomas P

    Considering how expensive machines (or in this case places in a harbor) are, shift work makes a lot of sense to use infrastructure more efficiently. You just have to make sure that the profits are shared. Three six hour shifts seems like a reasonable compromise. The factory is used 18 hours a day, everyone can still sleep in the middle of night, and workers get a shorter workday. Three times seven might work too if employers feel greedy.

  14. Anthony Stegman

    A significant number of people choose the graveyard shift. The reason for this is the graveyard shift pays more than the other shifts. People are willing to sacrifice their bodies for a few more dollars. This also applies to those who volunteer to work overtime. In fact, many workers depend on overtime in order to make ends meet.

    1. Odysseus

      I would rather work graveyard shift than day shift. Waking up too early in the morning kills my energy, attention, and mood for all day.

      Frankly it hurts less to stay up past my bedtime than to deal with “morning people” and their insane expectations.

  15. Anthony Stegman

    Think of one of the premises for Uber and Lyft. Most automobiles sit idle for most of the day. There is a logic to “borrowing” vehicles when you need them, rather than owning and them and keeping them idle most of the time. Uber and Lyft encourage the use of vehicles for a maximum time – the drivers drive all day (and perhaps night in certain locales) taking passengers here and there. Much more efficient use of the vehicles. Uber and Lyft business models don’t consider the needs of the drivers. Nor do the factory owners consider the needs of the workers. They are all disposable.

  16. Eudora Welty

    I fell into graveyard shift about 10 years ago & I like it much better than 8-5. It’s made my experience of life better. But I’m a solitary sort; hate normal chitchat, hate hurry up to get there on time only to need to look busy until my metabolism starts engaging around 10am.

  17. John Ware

    “Growth” in American commerce is nothing more than “feeding the beast.” I remember my first job after leaving the military: becoming lead supervisor in a corrugated box plant in Baltimore working a rotating six-day, 12 hrs per day shift schedule; each week I was on the following shift, days, then swing, then graveyard. After each third week, I’d get off at 8am on Sunday, only to start “days” again the next day, Monday, at 6am.

    Fast forward to 2010, when my company reached the $25M annual revenue level – we were making money hand-over-fist, but I resisted “growth for growth’s sake.” Of course, by the time I ended up selling the company in early 2019, we had grown four-fold since 2010. I’m not bragging – I had an unique set of products and services which weren’t readily available anywhere else. However, I kept my employee level at 125 and filled in with contractors to fill in the gaps.

    Corporations get to the point where it is pointless to grow any more, despite the fact that they can make more money. The “pointless” feature usually comes at a time where the CEO and the customer never meet or exchange ideas, where the CFO really has nothing else to do than to tell Wall Street analysts every 90 days that PE ratio will beat “expectations.” (Side note: funny how “expectations” have been beaten by approximately 74% across the board by the S&P 500 company aggregate since 2010, just sayin’.)

    You get to a point where you have to develop another product or search for a new area to drill for fossil fuels to keep Wall Street happy. You get to a point where, as a nation with 4% of the world’s population, you control the comings and goings of over 50% of the world’s currency on a daily basis. You get to a point where, because you’re abutting up against that magical 40-50% market share, your implicit contract with your customer has nothing to do with service, cost or quality anymore. And that’s because, like all the DC politicians, you’re not representing your constituents’ (or customers) interests anymore – you’re representing your donors’, your enablers’, your puppeteers’.

    You don’t have to care about the supply chain; your “too big to fail status” ensures that raising your prices to meet demand will cover all the shortcomings, inconsistencies, as well as lousy planning, forecasting and strategizing.

    My business was manufacturing and supply chain on a global scale – first in heavy manufacturing, then in high tech (including my own company)…for 43 years. I’ve seen companies grow, I’ve seen them fail. I’ve helped companies take their business offshore, and I’ve helped them onshore back. I’ve seen companies come and go, have known their leadership, and can make quick comparisons and associations as to what combination of such works, and what doesn’t.

    The current supply chain crisis was, of course, preventable. Being “too big to fail” also works for manufacturing and distribution concerns, including shipping and trucking. Funny how 1200 foot ocean-going cargo containers can run on a manpower contingent of 12-16 people, and that interstate trucking is on the cusp of using “driverless” trucks.

    I’m wondering when the geniuses in the American supply chain pantheon will come up with “longshoreman-less” ports. Oh wait…I think I just answered my own question.

  18. Tim

    Sleep gently, in not too short of time automation of shipyards and trucking will be the reality, no need for disrupting circadian rhythms.

  19. Kaile

    “slim pickings this Christmas and Hanukkah.”

    Jews are less than 3% of U.S. population, and they don’t go for mass consumption. Is Rebecca Gordon injecting her religious viewpoint into “news”?

    Or, is she claiming that the elite that spend lots of money on foreign stuff are Jewish?

    Are the longshoremen at the ports getting overtime? That’ll be about $200 an hour at least. Or, are they doing 3 eights?

Comments are closed.