The Spark

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

Not for everyone

Sep 18, 2006

CBS, in its Labor Day coverage, labeled workers who don’t take a vacation “workaholics.” For most workers, nothing could be further from the truth.

For example, in Baltimore, Maryland, a significant number of state office workers, many single-parent women, haven’t had a vacation in years. Those with families quickly use up their leave time and then turn to vacation days for family responsibilities: taking kids to the doctor, attending to school needs, caring for elderly parents, and medical appointments for themselves.

And what about workers who work two jobs – going from plant to Wal-Mart, or office to Lowes or working weekends at the stadium. Workaholics? What an insult! Many workers don’t make enough money with their 40-hour a week job to pay their bills. It’s a matter of survival.

That’s one reason why 40% of all U.S. workers took NO vacation this year. The other reason is that almost one fourth of all workers in private industry get no paid vacation or paid holidays. ZERO. No law in this country entitles every worker to a vacation.

Compare this to most European countries where by law workers are entitled to three, four or even five weeks off a year.

Don’t think the European bosses have hearts of gold. Years ago workers fought for the right to a month’s vacation ... enough time to have a real break, time to travel, spend relaxed time with family and friends, play some sports, time to read that pile of books, climb that mountain, go to museums, to enjoy life. And they fought not just for their own workplace, but for the whole working class.

Here in the richest country in the world, where the wealthy spend $12,000 a night for a fancy hotel and spa on the Island of Aruba ... a real vacation for many workers remains a luxury, a dream.