WASHINGTON (AP) -- Almost half of working women who are married or live with a partner are seeing their significant other only in passing because the two work different shifts, an AFL-CIO poll found.
In households with children under age 18, women surveyed were even more likely to say their work hours differed from their spouses -- 51 percent, compared with 46 percent overall.
''If you can't afford child care, then you work a different schedule than your husband,'' said Karen Nussbaum, director of the AFL-CIO's working women's department.
The labor federation released the Jan. 6-11 telephone poll of 765 working women over age 18 today.
It is part of the AFL-CIO's efforts to keep tabs on the priorities of working Americans and mobilize them to vote in this fall's elections. The labor federation has endorsed Vice President Al Gore and is also mounting a vigorous campaign on behalf of pro-labor congressional candidates, mostly Democrats.
Women played a key role in helping Democrats keep the White House and win more congressional seats in 1996, with 54 percent voting to re-elect President Clinton, compared with 43 percent of men.
Gore is scheduled to address a gathering of female union members, organized by the AFL-CIO, in Chicago this weekend.
The AFL-CIO poll found that working women share concerns that other polling has shown to be top priorities for men as well, including improved health care and retirement security.
But women also highly ranked better equal pay laws, improvements in child care and getting family and medical leave laws expanded to guarantee paid time off.
Nussbaum said those concerns seem to be ''directly related to the strains of balancing their work and family'' that are evident in the reasons many women give for working different shifts from their spouses.
Some don't have a choice; 34 percent of women polled said they have no say in their working hours.
But others, like Jennifer Dorsey, 31, are arranging work schedules opposite their husbands because it's better than the alternatives of expensive child care or losing pay when a child gets sick.
Dorsey, an assistant produce manager at a Kroger supermarket in Cincinnati, is on maternity leave after giving birth to her first child. She used to work days and spend evenings with her husband, a carpenter whose outdoor jobs require daylight.
However, when she goes back to work, she said she plans to request some evening shifts, likely 4 p.m. to midnight.
''I think that a couple of days a week we're going to have to play the ... parents where one comes and one goes because day care is so expensive,'' said Dorsey.
Few statistics are available comparing men's and women's work schedules.
The most recent Labor Department data, from 1997, showed 14 percent of American women and 19 percent of men working shifts other than the most common daytime, weekday hours. But it did not compare shifts of men and women living in the same household.
Although the AFL-CIO poll used a much smaller sample of the population than the Labor Department did, its findings suggest that evening and weekend shift work by women may be on the rise: 28 percent of women polled said they work shifts that include some weekend and evening hours.
The AFL-CIO survey was conducted by pollsters Lake Snell Perry and Associates Inc. and has a margin of error rate of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
On the Net: AFL-CIO working women's department: http://www.aflcio.org/women/index.htm
Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.