Man Insists Stabbing Himself In The Eye Is A Principle Everyone Should Follow
“I can’t think of a problem in society that can’t be traced in some way back to the abuses of organized labor, so it would be hypocritical of us to take a day off on its behalf,” said Freedom Foundation CEO Tom McCabe, in announcing the “work-in.” – Seattle Times, 8/30/14
To which I can only say:
A few years back, the tattered remnants of organized labor tried pushing for more paid vacation time for workers. The campaign, “America Deserves A Vacation”, was wildly popular among workers, so of course it was attacked non-stop by corporate interests.
According to an International Labor Organization Study from 1999, American workers at that time clocked an average of 2,000 hours a year, the highest in the world. In a story in yesterday’s Hartford Chronicle, that number has fallen by 200, with the United States still clocking in more than any other industrialized country.
The average U.S. workweek is 41 hours, compared with Britain’s 38 hours, Germany’s 37 hours and France’s 36 hours. More than 30 percent of American workers work 45 or more hours, compared with 18 percent in Germany and 4 percent in France. The U.K. is the same as we are. Over a year, the average employee puts in 1,800 hours, which is more than any other wealthy country, even Japan. What’s remarkable is the change during the past three decades: In 1979 we looked little different from these other countries. They’ve begun to take it easy, or to enjoy their riches, but we Americans have not.
The picture is even bleaker than these numbers suggest. Not only do we work more, we do much more work at undesirable times. Twenty-seven percent of U.S. employees perform some work between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., many more than in other rich countries; 30 percent work on weekends, again a lot more than elsewhere.
At a time both of record corporate profits and a skyrocketing stock market, our too-slow growth, stagnant wages, and the expansion of the part-time work force, combined with on-going hostility toward any hint of labor organizing for the benefit of all workers, the one thing we should be doing is encouraging not only a real national holiday – with the exception of emergency services and municipal policing and fire fighters – but the expansion of paid days off, longer paid vacations (most European countries, Australia, and New Zealand pretty much take their summers off), paid parental leave (as opposed to unpaid), subsidized child-care, and altering work hours to accommodate the needs of parents. Combined with an increase in the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation, while we might certainly see short-term profits dip, there is nothing to suggest, based on the experiences of the rest of the industrialized world, that such policies would spell the end of life as we know it.
To advocate for the opposite, based on some kind of stupid principle that unions are bad, horrible things (because they brought us things like the weekend, the minimum wage, workplace health and safety standards; you’re welcome, America) is one of the best things American conservatives could do. It makes as clear as possible that they think our overwork, underpaid and undercompensated lives just aren’t as important as their demands upon our time, our energy, and our attention. At some point, the bloated corporate bubble will burst. For now, I think it best to consider the possibility that insisting American workers just don’t work enough and should work through holidays and weekends is a winning strategy, encourage more conservatives to declare it from the rooftops. Because it’s election season. Nothing spells “win” like telling people who haven’t seen a real wage increase in years and haven’t had time off in months and still can only scrape by that they are lazy good-for-nothings who owe their employers more time at lower cost.