I had a revelation this morning, as I read about the United States being the only industrialized nation with no legally protected vacation time. Here is where reality smacked me in the face:
“And just last month, before members of the House of Representatives took off on their month-plus vacations, they decided to pile more overtime on working Americans by approving* the White House’s scrapping of 60 years of labor law with a wholesale rewrite of wage and hour regulations, turning anyone who holds a ‘position of responsibility’ into a salaried employee who can be required to work unlimited overtime for no extra pay.”
“Vacations are being downsized by the same forces that brought us soaring work weeks: labor cutbacks, a sense of false urgency created by tech tools, fear and guilt. Managers use the climate of job insecurity to stall, cancel and abbreviate paid leave, while piling on guilt.”
So here you are, the factors that allow some economists to say everything is alright, when anybody who does not live in a box knows there is something very wrong. Combine pointy haired bosses focused on arbitrary short term deadlines, add supervisors focused on making budget figures look good to please executives who are focused on making earnings targets, and liberally sprinkle with congressional rhetoric claiming to help the Working Man while actually helping his employer.
Your boss starts the chain of failure by making you work longer hours, and trying wherever possible to avoid paying you extra for these hours. Congress plans to assist him in that goal by increasing the number of people who can be considered salaried, and allowing “Comp Time.” Don’t be fooled by the lofty talk of how this will help you make doctor’s appointments and teacher conferences. The ability to actually take this time is governed by the same Lumberghian boss who told you at 4:30 on Friday afternoon that he needed you to come in Saturday and maybe Sunday too. Frankly, comp time is a system I saw abused before it was even legal. At least that employer gave the deserved time off within a few weeks; the law in question allows as much as a 13 month delay. In the end, your boss is allowed to work you harder, pay you the same, and promise that at some date in the hazy future you can have some time off. Assuming you remember to claim it, assuming your boss lets you have it, and assuming you still work there. Why exactly should your company hire another worker — who requires training and benefits — when the company can force existing employees work longer hours?
Of course this same boss can’t really afford to let you have a week off — let alone the 4 weeks the President gets, or even the 3 weeks the Chinese get — for a vacation. There’s work to be done, and temporary employees are expensive. He’s already perpetually understaffed because he’d rather make you work more hours than hire anybody. Indeed, he seems unable to quantify the fact that you will be more productive if you are rested, not overworked. Furthermore, as much of a taskmaster as he is, he’s afraid you may use that time off to seek a better job.
*I have been unable to find independent confirmation that this bill has passed the House. If it has, it will still require passing the Senate, compromise on any differing passages, and of course signature by the President. Think this is a raw deal? Start writing your Senator.