Revelations from the Graveyard Shift

By Kirstin Kelley

Shift Worker Series

Jay Haas works the graveyard shift at a job you might not think of as shift work. He is a “production specialist” at Microchip, an Arizona-based microchip manufacturing company. Microchip houses one of its largest production facilities near Portland, Oregon, a facility that is open 24 hours a day.

Over the last several decades, manufacturing jobs have been moved abroad where labor is cheaper, but recently, it’s become more cost-effective to manufacture some products in the United States to avoid paying transportation costs and import tariffs.

Hass builds and packages microchips for clients across many industries. “Automotive car parts, computer parts, wherever microchips are used, we make them,” he says proudly. He was originally hired to work only part-time, but his supervisors moved him to a full-time schedule as soon as his three-month probationary period ended and company policy would allow the increase in hours.

Microchip only has two shifts, graveyard and daytime, and each rotation works three 12-hour days, plus time for breaks. The shifts overlap because microchips have to be manufactured in a clean room, and putting on a sterile suit takes time, but Haas and his co-workers clock in before suiting up, so they get paid for the time.

Haas actually prefers working the graveyard shift. Not only does it pay 15 percent more than the daytime shift, but it also allows him to take care of regular business. “I’ve always liked graveyard because you can get more done during the day when other people are working,” he says. And with Hass’s penchant for home repairs, it’s helpful to be able to hit the hardware store on the way home from work so that he has plenty of supplies to get him through the day’s projects.

In spite of all the perks of working a graveyard shift, it pays more for a reason. If he isn’t careful about maintaining a regular schedule, including staying up all night on his days off, Hass starts feeling sick. And he already has enough health issues; he’s allergic to sulfates, which are in virtually everything, and he has gout.

Haas is proud of his work. Not only is the work itself interesting, especially since his team builds microchips for anything microchip’s clients might need, but he’s also excited to be part of changing the world. As computers become more ubiquitous and more complex, the jobs Microchip offers are going to require more skilled laborers working more hours and producing more chips. Hass enjoys speculating about where the microchips he builds end up, making a game of guessing whether the car driving down the street next to him might have a chip he was personally involved with manufacturing.

Whether he guesses the correct cars as they pass or not, Haas is definitely right about one thing. As we use computers in more parts of our daily life, his job is going to become more important and more complex. Companies like Microchip will probably build more manufacturing centers in the United States and all over the world, offering efficiency and cost-effective options for their clients. Which means more overnight shifts for workers like Hass.

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