The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Vacation time:
We need a break

Aug 11, 2003

Unlike every other wealthy country on the planet and many poorer ones, the United States has no laws guaranteeing vacation time or even paid holidays. As a result more than 20 million workers have no vacation time at all.

In many ways, Americans work the most and vacation the least. Almost one in four of those working in the private sector – not counting government workers or teachers – have no paid holidays. About one in five had no paid vacation.

In Europe, each country has a law requiring four weeks of paid vacation for every worker. Only one European country, Portugal, requires less – three weeks per year. In the U.S. those of us who get vacation would have to be at a workplace for about ten years to get that much time off for vacation. And not at all workplaces.

The Europeans have, in addition to vacation days, between 8 and 14 other days per year which are paid holidays for everyone. In the U.S., more than 20 million of us don't get paid for any holidays.

While a few workers here get more vacation or holidays, the vast majority get much less.

The difference is not a question of wealth or productivity. The United States has the largest economy in the world, equal to the combined total of the economies of all the Western European countries. And productivity in the U.S. is among the highest, meaning workers here produce more goods and services in an hour of work than elsewhere.

We are constantly told that this is the best country in the world. It is – for the bosses. But until and unless we fight to benefit from this enormous amount of wealth our labor produces, it will not be for us.