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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Ces Américains qui rêvent de temps libre

by T. L.

These Americans Who Dream of Free Time

Translated Friday 22 January 2010, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Derek Hanson

A coalition has been set up in the United States to advocate shorter working hours, as working hours have been completely deregulated.

“A customer sent me an e-mail at 10 p.m., I answered immediately, and at midnight he thanked me for my rapid response. Sometimes, during Mass, I switch off my cell phone, but as soon as the service is over, I turn it back on...” Work days that continue until late in the night, a dozen paid holidays a year: The American work ethic, as expressed by this proud consultant on a government site promoting American “values,” is not threatened. But for several years now, activists united in the “Take back your time” coalition have been trying to undermine this key element in the “American Dream.”

Every year, on October 24 – the day when, according to their reckoning, Americans have worked the number of weeks that Europeans do in a whole year – they organize a day to sensitize people to shorter working hours. “We work more than medieval peasants or the generation that preceded us in the 1950s,” they write in their manifesto. “This is absurd in view of the technological progress that has been made.” Their arguments are carefully selected: “Americans pride themselves on their family values, but our long working hours often prevent the members of a family from seeing one another! If we want to reinforce the American family, there’s no alternative to spending time together!”

In more fundamental terms, these activists want to take advantage of the economic crisis. For example, they are happy to hear that Sarkozy, “who less than two years ago was so fascinated by overworking U.S. workers,” has been converted (so they think) and now supports an index of “gross national happiness, which includes free time.”

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