[Marxism] Off the clock

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Nov 19 12:36:15 MST 2004

Karl Marx, Capital, Part III, Chapter 10, "The Working-Day"

"What is a working-day? What is the length of time during which capital 
may consume the labour-power whose daily value it buys? How far may the 
working-day be extended beyond the working-time necessary for the 
reproduction of labour-power itself?" It has been seen that to these 
questions capital replies: the working-day contains the full 24 hours, 
with the deduction of the few hours of repose without which labour-power 
absolutely refuses its services again. Hence it is self-evident that the 
labourer is nothing else, his whole life through, than labour-power, 
that therefore all his disposable time is by nature and law labour-time, 
to be devoted to the self-expansion of capital. Time for education, for 
intellectual development, for the fulfilling of social functions and for 
social intercourse, for the free-play of his bodily and mental activity, 
even the rest time of Sunday (and that in a country of Sabbatarians!) — 


NY Times, November 19, 2004
Forced to Work Off the Clock, Some Fight Back

Soon after Trudy LeBlue began working at the new SmartStyle hair salon 
outside New Orleans, her salon manager began worrying that business was 
too slow and profits were too weak.

To keep costs down, Ms. LeBlue said, the manager often ordered her and 
the two other stylists to engage in a practice, long hidden, that 
appears to have spread to many companies: working off the clock.

Many weeks, Ms. LeBlue spent 40 hours in the salon, but was ordered to 
clock out for 20 of them while waiting for customers to show up, she 
said. With the salon's computer tracking her official hours, she was 
told to clean up and stock merchandise during the unpaid stretches.

"If you weren't doing hair or a perm, they'd tell you to get off the 
clock, but you still had to stay in the salon," she said.

What angered her most was her paltry paycheck, which she said often came 
to just $200 for two weeks, even after 80 hours at work. For Ms. LeBlue, 
that worked out to $2.50 an hour, less than half of the $5.15-an-hour 
federal minimum wage and her official rate, $5.35 an hour.

Workers at hair salons, supermarkets, restaurants, discount stores, call 
centers, car washes and other businesses who have murmured only to one 
another about off-the-clock work are now speaking up and documenting the 
illegal practice.

In interviews and in affidavits supporting employee lawsuits, Ms. LeBlue 
and more than 50 workers from a dozen companies said they were required 
to do such unpaid work despite federal and state laws that prohibit it 
and despite recent lawsuits against Wal-Mart and other companies that 
have highlighted the problem.

"It is prevalent," said Alfred Robinson, director of the wage and hour 
division of the Labor Department. "It is one of the more common 
violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act."

Though there have been no formal studies of the practice or of its 
overall cost to employees, the workers interviewed said off-the-clock 
work took place at a variety of companies: A&P, J. P. Morgan Chase, Pep 
Boys, Ryan's Family Steakhouses, TGF Precision HairCutters and Ms. 
LeBlue's company, SmartStyle, which is part of the Regis Corporation, 
the nation's largest chain of hairstylists. SmartStyle and many of the 
other companies say they bar off-the-clock work, and they are fighting 
the lawsuits.

Over the last year, the Labor Department has brought enforcement actions 
against several companies that required off-the-clock work, seeking back 
pay and demanding compliance. The agency has grown more aggressive after 
plaintiffs' lawyers filed scores of off-the-clock lawsuits, some 
resulting in multimillion-dollar settlements with prominent companies, 
including Radio Shack and Starbucks.

In April, the Pleasantview Healthcare Center of Bolivar, Tenn., paid 
$44,887 in back wages after the Labor Department found off-the-clock 
violations involving 41 employees - many of them clocked out while 
finishing their daily tasks. In February, the department recovered 
$180,000 from the Hanna Steel Corporation after finding that 522 
employees had been forced for months to begin work five minutes before 
their regular shifts started.

Last November, the Labor Department announced a $4.8 million back-wages 
settlement with T-Mobile, the wireless telephone company, after finding 
that it had forced 20,500 call-center employees to work off the clock by 
making them show up 10 to 15 minutes before their scheduled clock-in time.

full: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/19/national/19clock.html


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