Journal Article

Overwork Impacts on Low-Wage Workers: Insights from the Food Manufacturing Sector in Oregon and Washington

Abstract: Unstable scheduling refers to such employer practices as last-minute schedule changes, lack of advance notice, requiring employees to be on-call, split shifts, “clopening,” and variable hours and shift times. Evidence has shown that such practices can lead to underwork, or involuntary part-time hours, particularly for service-sector workers. But another, less-explored dimension of unstable scheduling practices—and the focus of this analysis—is overwork. Overwork stems from practices that can limit the ability of workers to get adequate rest and can heighten the bodily and emotional hazards that workers experience. We identify the following forms of unstable scheduling practices that constitute overwork: • Long work days of over eight hours/day • Long work weeks of over 40 hours/week and/or over five days/week • Long stretches of over seven days without days off • Lack of sufficient breaks during shifts These multiple dimensions of unstable scheduling are sometimes layered together. For instance, workers can experience both optional and mandatory overtime, which can extend both their work day and/or their work week. When workers are assigned mandatory overtime, they face risk of penalty if they refuse to work these extended hours, including potential loss of employment. In addition, workers may experience combinations of overwork, underwork, or other unstable scheduling practices within one job, or as they move between multiple jobs to cobble together full-time, year-round employment, especially if working in an industry with high turnover and widespread seasonality. These combinations compound the strain that workers experience.

Keywords: low-wage jobs; work; Oregon; Washington; manufacturing;

Access Documents


Bibliographic Information

Provider: Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

Part of Series: Community Development Research Brief

Publication Date: 2023-10-10

Volume: 2023

Issue: 3

Pages: 24

Note: Lola Loustaunau, University of Wisconsin Madison School for Workers; Lina Stepick, Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI); and Elizabeth Kneebone, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

Related Works