It was a major topic this past election, restoring America’s working-class jobs, which made many wonder what life was like for these factory workers. It isn’t hard to imagine what working in a factory might look like during a shift, but there’s more that goes into the job than many realize. Here’s what you perhaps never knew about what it’s really like to work in an American factory.

The Hours Are Unpredictable

Despite strong unions fighting for worker’s rights, companies have long ago realized that it’s cheaper to pay their labor force time and a half than it is to pay for any additional employee’s benefits. For many, 40 hours a week is the maximum time spent working on average. To a factory worker, 40 hours a week is laughable.

It isn’t uncommon for these employees to work 10 or 12 hour shifts six days a week. That figure can often come with no choice in their overtime shifts, as well as little notice to when they will be required to come in on what would have been a day off.

The average length of a manufacturer’s workweek was 41.8 hours in a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics analysis, but that number also includes part time employees which masks the true hours by those employed full-time. More details are needed to find the true average, but the estimated 60+ hour workweeks for full-timers infringe on their ability to spend time with family as well as anything else they may enjoy.

The Pay

Those long hours do not go unrewarded. A weekly average of take-home pay for a manufacturer is around $1,077 or roughly $26.47 an hour, which is high pay for a position that does not require a college degree.

However, this industry has not increased its pay scale in relation to other industries over the years. What used to afford a decent middle-class living, even breaching upper middle-class, no longer carries the monetary weight it used to.

While that isn’t to say that someone in this industry can’t make a stable living, these workers are earning significantly less per hour than those in industries that have similar workweeks and require similar levels of education. Weiss-Aug’s programs, such as the one here are an excellent example.

However, this pay is still one of the highest for those with only a high school diploma at an average salary of $41,741. Keep in mind, though, that these numbers are only an average. There are workers out there who make only $10 or $12 an hour to do the same job, equating to just above $20,000 a year.

Job Insecurity

After spending years working overtime for a company, there’s no guarantee they will have their job a year from now. Since 2000, the U.S. saw a loss of five million manufacturing jobs. That number reflects both increased layoffs and factories shutting down across the nation.

Losing this steady stream of income is harsh enough, but finding another manufacturing job that will pay the same hourly rate can be even harsher. There are no placement programs that move workers to another factory when one closes, and layoffs can target both entry and veteran workers alike.

While there is an initiative to restore both factory and other blue-collar jobs here in America, the number of once-manufacturing-employees turning to other income avenues remains high.

The companies that do remain are seeing themselves become more about high tech processes rather than physical labor, which also alienates long-time workers in this field. Now, a factory worker would need the skills to operate and work with computers, requiring certifications or degrees.



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