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Thursday, December 2, 2021

As Americans work overtime to clear the backlog, night shifts are back

Trevor Bidelman usually works at a Kellogg’s grain factory in Battle Creek, Michigan, from 7 am to 3 pm. But recently, he works late at night four or five days a week.

“They walked up to you at about 2:55 and told you that you were trapped there until 11 in the evening,” Bidelman said. “This has reached the point of inhumanity; we are just used to it.”

Late-night shifts and a two-level medical benefit plan prompted 1,400 Kellogg workers in four states to initiate a strike, which has now entered its fourth week.

Manufacturers and operations centers are eager to find workers to fill more and more night shift positions as they race to keep up with the strong demand for consumer packaged goods and the tight supply chain since the early days of the coronavirus crisis.

Both the Port of Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles have switched to all-weather operations to clean up stacked containers. Wal-Mart is extending its normal business hours, FedEx is extending its pre-existing night working hours, and Target will increase the number of containers moved at night by 10%. Biden Administration.

Therefore, night shift workers are in great demand. As a result, the number of jobs that required overnight shifts posted on the job site ZipRecruiter in September was 14 times the number of typical jobs in the years before the pandemic.

Julia Pollak, chief economist of ZipRecruiter, said: “In 2021, there will be a surge in the number of night shift jobs.” “Obviously, there is a surge in demand for workers who are preparing for non-traditional shift work.”

Line chart of recruitment information "night shift" or "Three shifts" It has been indexed on ZipRecruiter. The level in January 2019 = 1 shows that night shift workers are in high demand

Continued labor shortages make it difficult for employers to fill most hourly workers, especially those jobs that do not have flexible timetables. When the labor market becomes weaker, these jobs have become unpopular among workers. For existing employees like Bidelman, this means more being forced to work overtime.

Since the 1860s, the U.S. economy has relied on night work when a movement led by a union established a shift system in which three employees work in shifts every eight hours in the factory.Despite this, according to a human resources consulting company, three-quarters of employees prefer traditional day work hours Shift work solution, The second shift starting at about 4 pm or the third shift starting at midnight.

Some workers in the third shift do this to balance the responsibilities of taking care of their children or their wages may be 15% higher. But according to Jim Dillingham, a partner at Shiftwork Solutions, many people see this as a stepping stone for getting a job in demand earlier in the day.

However, studies have shown that the third shift violates the body’s natural circadian rhythm and puts workers at increased risk of severe fatigue and other problems. Health status Including cancer and Coronavirus diseaseIn 1985, a popular song by Commodores recorded the trial of the third group of workers, but has since disappeared from popular culture.The Department of Labor estimated in 2007 that approximately 20% Of workers are engaged in work outside of normal day shifts. From 2017 to 2018, when they took the last measurement, 16% Of American workers work outside the daytime.

Dillingham said that just as the demand for three-shift shifts began to take off again as e-commerce surges, the pandemic and the consequent labor shortages have weakened many of the incentives to go to night shifts. Wages have risen across the board, and many manufacturing plants and distribution centers are understaffed, so that they are willing to hire more inexperienced employees to take on the once highly sought-after roles.

ZipRecruiter said that the crisis has increased the demand for workers in areas that have long required round-the-clock work, including nursing and policing, but most of the surge can be attributed to the massive expansion of warehousing jobs.

In the recent wave of strikes, insufficient night shift staff and forced overtime have become key factors that activists call “strikes.”

The arduous 16-hour shifts and short breaks became the crux of the Hollywood staff, who narrowly avoided a strike that would shut down national film and television production earlier this month. Their union stated that the studio has been extending the shooting time to make up for the production time lost during the Covid lockdown. Their new contract guarantees a break between shifts and weekends.

Bidelman hopes his colleagues will get something similar when they resume contract negotiations with Kellogg last week. The union rejected what Kellogg called “the last best final offer.”The company is now urgent The union allows employees to vote.

Michael Innis-Jimenez, a labor historian at the University of Alabama, compared the conflict over the revival of night shifts with similar conflicts after World War II. The factory runs for a longer period of time to supply the front lines for four years. But when they tried to maintain this speed after the war, they did not raise wages, and a series of strikes ensued.

“My view is that this is not a war, but an epidemic. But apart from consumerism, there is nothing more important than this,” Innis-Jimenez said. “This does cause losses to the workers.”

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