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    The Vanishing Vacation Frontier

    TakeBackTime2.gifI heard an interesting report on Rock 102 this morning from John De Graaf, editor of a book entitled Take Back Your Time: Fighting Overtime and Time Poverty in America. He is also advocating a bill called "The Minimum Leave Protection, Family Bonding and Personal Well-Being Act of 2007" which, among other things, would establish a minimum vacation requirement for employees working in America. I'm all for that. I get three weeks vacation plus five sick days and a week of holiday between Christmas and New Years and you know what? It ain't enough. I work in a Union shop, so my vacation time is spelled out by contract--next  year I get four weeks, and I can't wait for that. It's June 12th and I'm already down to 3.5 vacation days and three personal days. By the end of next month, they will all be gone, and then it'll be the Long Haul until January 1st, where I'll be so burnt out I'll start eating up vacation days again. Talk about your vicious cycle.

    de Graaf talked about all the negative effects of what he calls "Time Stress" and referred to a website called Take Back Your Time. I went there and found these interesting statistics (lifted directly from that site):

    • We're putting in longer hours on the job now than we did in the 1950s, despite promises of a coming age of leisure before the year 2000.
    • In fact, we're working more than medieval peasants did, and more than the citizens of any other industrial country.
    • Mandatory overtime is at near record levels, in spite of a recession.
    • On average, we work nearly nine full weeks (350 hours) LONGER per year than our peers in Western Europe do.
    • Working Americans average a little over two weeks of vacation per year, while Europeans average five to six weeks. Many of us (including 37% of women earning less than $40,000 per year) get no paid vacation at all.

    This website, timeday.org, reports that Time stress threatens our health, threatens our marriages, families and relationships, weakens our communities, and reduces employment. It leaves many of us with little time to vote or be active citizens or volunteers. It leaves us little time for ourselves, for self-development, or for spiritual growth. It leads to growing neglect and abuse of pets, and it even contributes to the destruction of our environment.

    And yet, where I work, there are people who don't use all of their vacation time and gladly sell it back if given the opportunity. I never understood that. I know I'm one one of the fortunate ones, but my wife isn't so lucky, especially if she's working temp jobs.  When I first heard this report, I thought it was a little frivolous, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how ingrained certain work ethics are in our society, and despite being a "free country" millions of us are actually slaves to The Man and his paycheck.  

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