June 11, 2011 by wcobserver
Finally, here it is … June, the beginning of summer and the season when workers all over the industrialized world begin to celebrate the weeks-long reprieve from their labors and enjoy what we all know as “paid vacation time.” Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration. It’s probably more accurate to say workers, except American employees, are celebrating weeks of paid vacation. This is one aspect of American “exceptionalism” that doesn’t get much attention.
Our federal government requires that employees be given exactly zero paid holiday and vacation days a year. This stands in sharp contrast to other industrialized countries. In over 130 countries, paid vacation leave is mandated by law. Every European worker is entitled by law to get four weeks of paid vacation time each year. If Americans get any vacation time it is due to the generosity of their boss. The average vacation allotment for American workers is 8.1 days after a year on the job.
The effect of this comparative reduction of vacation time means more than just less time to lie around relaxing at the mountains or beach. There are health issues, both mental and physical.
There is mounting research showing the risk of heart attacks is higher in men and women who don’t take regular vacations. Burnout and stress are five times more costly to treat than average workplace maladies and some research is showing that women who don’t take vacations are twice as likely to be depressed as those who do. But most of us don’t need a medical research team to tell us that we feel a heck of a lot better after a vacation.
Some research indicates that “more free time” is the number one priority for middle-class Americans yet they seem to be working like ants according to the right2vacation.org website:
Last year only 14 percent of American workers took two weeks or more for vacation. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American works one month (160 hours) more today than in 1976. Last year only 57 percent of American workers took a vacation of a week or longer. Twenty-five percent of Americans receive no paid vacation leave. Only 69 percent of lower-wage workers get any paid vacation leave and 37 percent of American women earning less than $40,000 a year receive no paid annual leave.
What can you do about the situation? Not much. The general mood in this country is clearly moving toward supporting legislation aiming to roll back laws that were meant to protect working people. The minimum wage, parental leave, child labor laws, union recognition, unemployment compensation, and more are all under attack. The Republicans are leading the charge to eliminate established workers’ rights and Democrats seem to have left the field of battle. Sorry, you’re on your own.
If you’re lucky maybe the boss will give you a few hours overtime and you can put one of those above- ground swimming pools on your credit card. Let the kids splash around in it. You just don’t have the time to drive to the ocean, anyway. Remember, the corporation you work for is counting on your summer-time labor to help make America competitive in the global market.