Berkeley Flexible Work Time Initiative



About Us



Work Time and
the Environment

Work Time and
the Family

Work Time and
the Good Life

Work Time and Economics

Work Time Choice
is a Success

Work Time Choice: Model Policies


Classic Essays

Leaflet [PDF]

Initiative Text



About Us


This initiative was organized by Charles Siegel, author of The Politics of Simple Living, who explains:

I cannot understand why most people ignore the issue of flexible work time, when it has such obvious benefits.

Flexible work time is good for the environment. It gives people the choice of downshifting economically, choosing to have more time rather than more stuff. When people choose to earn less and to consume less, then they also pollute less.

Flexible work time is good for families. It lets caregivers, such as parents of young children, balance their work and family obligations.

Flexible work time is good for employment. Businesses have to hire new employees to backfill for those who choose shorter hours.

Flexible work time is good for quality of life. People will choose shorter hours, only if they think that it will make their lives more satisfying.

Yet existing laws encouraging choice of work time only talk about the benefits to families.

One goal of this initiative is to get environmentalists talking about this issue. When we ask them to endorse this initiative, I hope environmental groups will see that giving people the choice of living more simply is a key element to dealing with global warming and other environmental problems.

Vermont recently passed this sort of right-to-request law, in order to protect women against discrimination. I think that, once people realize that it has many other benefits, this sort of law will become common. If a liberal state like Vermont has passed this law, then a liberal state like California can also pass it.

When I first began to ask people what they thought of this initiative, I got a wide range of responses.

One person, a former councilmember, said she thought that this law was so uncontroversial that it would pass with no trouble. She said that I shouldn't even bother with an initiative. I should just ask the council, and they would pass it with no problem.

Another person, a former transportation commissioner, said he thought this law was so radical that it never would pass. He said that, if I thought this law was moderate, then Karl Marx probably also thought that he was moderate.

The wildly different responses from many people convinced me that there has not been enough public discussion of flexible work time. These two people would agree on virtually every political issue that has been widely discussed, and their opinions of this issue are so different only because there is very little information out there about this issue. Most of the people I asked seemed to be making up their responses on the fly, without having thought about the issue before.

I sometimes call flexible work time "The most important environmental issue that no one is talking about."

I decided to devote a bit of my money and a lot of my time to this initiative, hoping to help create the public discussion that this issue deserves.


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