The summer months are a time to spend with our families, visit relatives in other cities, and simply hang out and get some rest. But for workers, the family time and relaxation has to be squeezed into our schedules before we have to clock back in to work. Without a job all you have is time and no money. And for those who are working, it seems like we have no time and still not enough money.
The U.S. is the only wealthy nation in the world that doesn’t guarantee workers annual time off. If we work for an employer that offers vacation time, we often have to work for decades to get close to four weeks. And if we do get time off, we rarely get the days we want since we have to request the days off so far in advance. Staffing is constantly being reduced, with companies not replacing workers who either get injured, sick or leave. This means more work, but it also means it’s harder to take time off because there aren’t enough workers to cover. We can use our sick days but for many of us that might mean risking our jobs. More often than not, it ends up meaning we get no real time off at all. Or if some of us do get time off, it just means even more work piled on the rest of us who are stuck at work.
Everywhere, the bosses are taking advantage of the fact that so many workers are looking work, desperate to find jobs. Where workers are seeing more misery, the bosses see an opportunity to make even more money. They tell us we are lucky to even have jobs. Then they want to dump the rest of the work onto fewer workers while they cut our wages at the same time. If they do hire new workers, the bosses are doing their best to make sure it is for part-time or temporary positions. Our poverty, our desperation, our time – to the bosses, it’s all just a chance to squeeze more out of us.
The truth is, there is so much work put on so few people that we are working harder than ever. The amount of work each worker does in the average workday has increased by 18 percent since 2008, the highest increase since 1947. We see examples of this in every industry. Bus drivers have seen their wages cut and work hours increase. Nurses and medical workers have had to treat more patients and cover more medical stations. Workers have had to work through their breaks if they even get breaks at all. Across the board, we are doing more work.
And with any time off that we can get, it’s harder to spend it doing what we actually want. Not only do we have less money, the price of everything has become more expensive. If we were thinking about going on a road trip, the gas prices make us think twice whenever we fill up our tanks. The same is true for traveling by air. Airline prices jumped nearly 18 percent since 2011. Interested in going camping? Years of budget cuts have not only closed down many state parks, but also raised fees to visit them. So even if we get time off, it’s more difficult to spend it on a vacation.
If there ever was a period we might be able to spend more time with our family – summer should be it. But just because our kids are out of school does not mean that we are freed from work. Instead of spending more time with our kids, we often have to find somewhere to drop them off. The more we work, the less time we spend with our families.
Summertime should be easy, with time to relax, to spend with our loved ones, learn new things, explore new places. With so many people looking for work, time off should be easy to organize. By putting more people to work, the work could get done and everyone could work less.
But in this society, organized for the profits and benefit of the few at the expense of the majority, profits come at the cost of our health, our families, our relationships, our lives. We do the work to make this society run, and we should have the good things in life as well, especially the most valuable thing in the world – time.