Work hours declined for a century through hard-fought labor-movement victories, but they've increased significantly since the seventies. McCallum traces the varied reasons why our lives became tethered to a new rhythm of work, and describes how we might gain a greater say over our labor time -- and build a more just society in the process.
Despite that it’s for anyone who’s employed, the way you approach Worked Over will depend on which side of the paycheck you’re on. It does lean more toward employees—and blue-collar workers, at that ... in fact, worker-readers hailing from all business-types will find outraging tales; stories of workplace politics; and horror-story-like, near-dystopian hints of the future of employment. If it weren’t for the somewhat Norma Rae tone and the solution-ideas, it would be enough to send a worker, screaming, to the break room to hide ... Reach for this book with an open mind and there’s much to learn, whether you’re the owner, supervisor, or an in-the-trenches worker. One job, two jobs, three jobs or more, Worked Over can’t be overlooked.
This points to McCallum’s central goal, which is to reduce working hours. He advocates a movement to shrink our time on the clock while reducing pay barely or not at all, although he doesn’t quite explain how that would work. The ideal is not a country that hardly works, but one where employees work less and have more control over their working time ... Do all of McCallum’s ideas have enough fuel to fly? Maybe some, but others not so much. The universal basic services proposal, for example, seems to rely on a socialist government that we don’t have. As for reducing working hours, it would be, he admits, a long and difficult struggle requiring much solidarity among working Americans who have not yet been radicalized to the cause. It’s a delicious promise, but whether American workers — battered, politically polarized and out of work in great numbers — can take on a fight of this nature at this moment is doubtful. Still, workers of the country need bold ideas like those McCallum offers.
McCallum's book is rich with examples of middle- and working-class responses to job-related time pressures. A few cases seem quirky (1973 astronaut in-space strike or a strippers' union protest), but even those fit well with his theme that workers without control over their time will, too often tragically, buckle under the conditions or, through remarkable effort, resist ... A well-focused chapter on changes in the welfare system reveals the role of government in demanding workers' time ... Subtly drawing on classic Marxian theory that capitalism steals laborers' lives as well as their work, McCallum's book will find a welcome audience among those concerned about global working conditions.