Friday, September 3, 2010

Day 246- Labor Day

Dear Mr. President,

Thanks for declaring Monday Labor Day. I know you didn't make up the Holiday, and the Presidential Proclamation is almost entirely ceremonial. But thank you. You might think that, as a member of America's workforce, I appreciate the holiday you've proclaimed for us. I guess the part of me that values symbolism and whimsy does, sort of. The rest of me just remembers that this is pushing back payday an extra 24 hours since the payroll department and the bank all have a day off. Don't get me wrong, I don't begrudge my cubicle-bound brethren their 3-day weekend; just because I am a part-time employee and not qualified for a paid holiday doesn't mean every one else shouldn't have a special weekend. My real problem with Labor Day is that it reminds me how truly sad the current state of the American worker actually is.

A study conducted in 2007 found that the US is the only country out of the top 21 richest that does not require by law paid vacation time for workers.
As a result, 1 in 4 U.S. workers do not receive any paid vacation or paid holidays. The lack of paid vacation and paid holidays in the U.S. is particularly acute for lower-wage and part-time workers, and for employees of small businesses.
I'm not an expert or anything, but if we all had paid time off, wouldn't we have more time to stay healthy, recover from illness or injury, connect with our families, raise our children, travel, shop, learn, and be creative? I think most people need more of most of those things in their lives and our society would definitely benefit from more of these activities. Also, if workers were mandated paid time off, more workers would be needed to do the same amount of work and wouldn't that lower unemployment?

I do understand that if the Federal Government can't secure health insurance for every American worker, paid time off might be a fantastic stretch of the imagination. While I have had jobs with paid vacations, this was a benefit only applicable to select "full-time" employees, even when many designated "part-time" worked as many or more hours. Starbucks is the notable exception to this and I think their entire benefit package for part-time workers is truly one of the most commendable examples from an American company of its size. I think that Starbucks grasps something that more companies might benefit from understanding: employees are often the best customers. Keeping employees healthy and sane and comfortable benefits the employer, and it benefits society as a whole.

Maybe it's just my resentment at not getting a three day weekend. Maybe asking for paid time off is unforgivably socialist of me in a time when you're getting called much worse for doing far less. I am grateful for the victories secured by workers of this country and they are worth remembering. But, in a time when the desperation and fear of so many workers just barely scraping by is exploited to increase the profit margins and bonuses of the rich executives, when so many of us lack health insurance or even paid sick time and are constantly told to just feel lucky we have jobs at all, maybe asking us to celebrate on Monday is asking too much.

Respectfully yours,



  1. After you've worked at the store for a while, you'll get 4 hours of pay on holidays as a part timer. But you have to have 500 hours accumulated. At least, that's what I remember.

  2. Right on, Kelsey!

    Sick and sad, that the class war has come to totally denigrate the people who made the rich rich.