Third shifts make plants more efficient, create jobs and give automakers more vehicles to sell. But they also dramatically change the lifestyle of those who spend nights on the assembly line.
George Ruiz, president of UAW Local 31 in Kansas City, Kan., says he lasted only about three months on the third shift, which runs from 10:30 p.m. to 7 a.m., as a team leader in the paint department a couple of years ago.
"The hardest part is the first few weeks, because you're used to sleeping at night instead of staying up," he says. "There were some days that it was good, but there were times that you just feel sleepy and don't feel like getting up."
He transferred back to days when the opportunity arose but says many third-shifters are happy because they get a 5 percent shift premium under the UAW contract and can spend more time during the day with their spouses and children.
"The majority of them, they could be on days but they just like it," Ruiz says. "The second shift is the one that people don't like, because you don't get to see your family."