Jeb Bush call for Americans to work more hours draws backlash

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush’s remarks that the economy could achieve a steady four percent annual growth rate if Americans would work longer hours have fueled a firestorm of negative reaction from fair pay advocates.

“People need to work longer hours,” Bush said today in response to questions about how he would boost economic growth in America.

“It may be easy for Jeb to sit extra hours at his many corporate board meetings, but the average American worker – many of whom are doing physically demanding jobs – already clocks in 47 hours a week while wages remain stagnant,” said Brad Woodhouse in a statement for Americans United for Change. “Keeping workers away from their families longer is no recipe for a stronger economy, but paying them more is,” he added.

Some are comparing the statement by Bush to the out-of-touch remarks about the 47 percent that Mitt Romney made four years ago when he was running for president. In a speech to wealthy contributors Romney essentially said that 47 percent of the U.S. population was lazy and content to do as little work as possible and that they would never vote for him.

“There is always a moment during presidential elections when we get a clear glimpse into who a candidate truly is,” said Richard Trumka, following the Jeb Bush remarks. “Jeb Bush let us know he doesn’t have the faintest idea what it’s like to work hard for a living. To get that idea,” Trumka said, “he’s the one who has to work longer – at listening, at having at least a passing connection to reality in America.”

“American workers don’t need to work longer hours,” Trumka said. “They need to be paid better for their extremely hard work and long hours they already contribute to our economy.”

The Bush remarks are seen as especially hypocritical in view of his and his Republican Party’s lack of support for President Obama’s plan to fix the overtime rule for millions of Americans making just over $23,660 a year who put in 60 or more hours a week with no extra pay.

Bush and the GOP have also refused to support ending another ploy used by bosses to cheat workers out of overtime – the scheme that misclassifies salaried workers as supervisors.

Following is a video where Dawn, a Dollar General employee, tells how she was cheated out of money because of an outdated rule about who is eligible for overtime:

Fair pay advocates also note that Bush has said on previous occasions that he would do away with the federal minimum wage. Such a move, of course, would not encourage people to work additional hours.

“Maybe Jeb Bush should spend fewer hours trying to resuscitate his brother George’s failed trickle-down policies that exploded the income inequality gap in America,” Woodhouse said.

Research shows that Americans already work well over 40 hours per week.  According to ABC News, a 2014 Gallup poll found Americans employed full-time report working, on average, 47 hours a week, while nearly four in 10 say they work at lease 50 hours a week.

U.S. workers toil more hours than workers in any other large industrialized country, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Photo: Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush gets ready in a back room to speak Hudson, N.H.  |   Jim Cole/AP


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.