Though labor often boasts that it helped codify the two-day work break—witness the popular pro-labor bumper sticker, “Unions: the folks that brought you the weekend”—a day of rest is protected by law in only a fraction of the states. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, thirteen states have laws mandating a day of rest for some or all workers. In states that mandate a day of rest only for certain categories of workers, those workers are often in jobs where fatigue could lead to increased accidents or deaths.
Now that might be about to come to an end in Wisconsin.
Currently, the law in Wisconsin requires that workers employed in a “factory or mercantile establishment” must receive “at least 24 consecutive hours of rest in every 7 consecutive days.” If an employer would like a worker to work seven days in a row for a limited period of time, then the two can jointly petition the Department of Workforce Development for a waiver. According to the office of Republican Representative Mark Born, who is introducing this bill in the State Assembly, there were 169 waivers requested in 2013 and 232 in 2014, and all of them were granted. Under the current system, the waiver requests must state the necessity for the waiver, and they are granted only for a limited period of time.
The new bill, which is being sponsored by Republican Van Wanggaard in the State Senate alongside Born in the Assembly, would add a provision to the “day of rest” law that could effectively nullify it. The bill would create an exemption that would allow employees to “voluntarily choose” to slave away for seven days in a row without at least twenty-four hours of rest.