Summer vacation collage
Summer vacation collage

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.

About the author

Gael Tarleton is an NPI Advisory Councilmember and former Washington State Representative who led two Russian subsidiaries during the 1990s and lserved as a senior defense intelligence analyst on Soviet strategic nuclear programs at the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency from 1981-1990. She served on NPI's board from its inception through 2021.

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