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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, January 20th, 2017

Progressive Ideas We Need: Paid vacation leave as part of every job

Editor’s Note: Today and throughout this weekend, NPI is running a special series here on the Cascadia Advocate called Progressive Ideas We Need, highlighting proposals that would raise quality of life in our region and in the United States as a whole. Each post is contributed by an NPI staff, board, or advisory council member.

Families can play together when parents are able to take vacation time.

When I was growing up, my Dad’s manufacturing plant closed for two weeks every winter and every summer. These were good union jobs.

First, he was a plant manager and then he was a national sales manager, but the whole plant closed and all the workers took a vacation – a paid vacation.

That’s how it all started. When Dad took vacation, he’d make breakfast for us. We’d go Christmas shopping with him to help him pick out his presents for Mom.

We’d go skating and sledding. We’d watch football and hockey and sometimes go to a hockey game. In the summer, we’d take a weekend and drive to the Cape Cod National Seashore. We’d head to the beach with “The Crowd” — about thirty people from the families in the neighborhood. We’d cook out, play baseball, visit our grandparents, and go out for ice cream cones.

That was what it was like when workers had paid vacation.

Today, it’s different. The workplace is all about the rat race and workers are afraid to take time off to rejuvenate. The “work, work, work” menality today has left 23% of full-time American workers with no paid vacation time and no paid holidays.

A 2013 study showed that sixty-five percent of part-time workers get no paid time off. For full-time American workers, the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that they earn on average 8.1 days of vacation after a year on the job.

Today, families struggle to pay the bills. They can’t afford to take unpaid time off to spend with their families. Single parents can’t take a week off to just hang out with their kids when they don’t get paid for that time off. The United States seems addicted to work (or, as Annie Leonard put it, the work-watch-shop treadmill).

If we want to build healthy families and strong economies, our workers need to know that they can take vacation without fear of losing their jobs. We must support strong families and secure our middle class. Every worker needs vacation time to rest and re-energize. This is what a great society needs to improve quality of life for everyone. Offering employees paid vacation leave is just the fair thing to do.

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