Monday, September 1, 2014

Happy Labor Day! Now, about that....

First, remember that I'm still celebrating the re-release of my book, Death of Heaven. Check out my Blog from this weekend, if you haven't already seen it. Today is the last day my ebooks are up for free during this even. After today, my free short story ebooks are back to their normal .99 price, but I have lowered the price of the print version to $4.99 from now on.

Now, about labor....

I've been saying for years how the American worker is being abused by corporations, management and, our Government, who are heavily swayed by business interests, big money, conservatives and lately for some reason, religious factions.

I've been saying for decades that we should be working toward fewer hours, fewer days per week per worker. We hear complaints about there being not enough jobs and yet, workers are working more hours, rather than fewer (for the same pay) and more days; taking fewer vacations days, many times out of fear of losing a job. Where there could be jobs for others, the current workers (in the jargon of conservative and Republican types), are "STEALING jobs" from the unemployed.

How is all this not obvious?

On Fareed Zakaria this weekend Fareed had a piece on just this topic. It was rewarding to hear it finally being discussed on a national show.

Did you know that American workers are the only advanced economy country of workers in the world not guaranteed paid vacation days? As many as 23% of Americans get no paid holidays or vacation.Americans who do get paid time off take only about half of it on average according to one survey.

In contrast Europeans see a need for a work/life balance.

Why don't we? I do. I have worked for a health insurance company for years in their IT department on their web sites, for, well, April 1st, 2015 will be nineteen years. Nine months proceeding that I actually started as a contractor. So really, September 9th will be nineteen years, but it doesn't country toward benefits as I was a contractor and not a hired employee, yet.

My point in mentioning this company is they are a good company to work for. They want people to take vacation time as a relaxed and refreshed employee is happier, makes fewer mistakes and in general leads to a more functional workplace. They have also found that allowing remote workers was a plus for everyone involved. Since I work on web servers that are located in datacenters in Utah, Oregon and Washington, there's no real need for me to be in the office in Seattle.

So I have been able to work full time from home now for a couple of years. A big benefit for me as my commute is two hours long one way, twice a day, in driving to the park and ride, waiting and taking the bus, waiting and taking the ferry (which can be awesome in Puget Sound), and then walking. In the afternoon I'm reversing that. It's great for the exercise and reading time it allows, but it's four hours out of my day for no good reason, not to mention, it adds a burden on our state infrastructure and pollution levels. That's four hours I now have back for writing, or personal issues, which enhances the overall quality of my life.

Getting back to it....

German workers work 600 hours less than their Greek counterparts, but German productivity is 70% higher. There are many examples of this around the world which shoots a hole in the argument that more hours means more productivity. What corporations and government don't account for in expecting us to work more hours is the overall amount of money that is made and where it goes. There is no reason we cannot be working toward a four day work week.

If you ever bring up a four day work week to companies today the standard response is one of two. Either they say no, outright, or they smile and say yes, four work days a week is acceptable, of course you'd be then doing ten hour days to make up for it. But why shouldn't we by now in his most advanced country in the world be working four day weeks and six hour days? Then money is actually there for this and that would allow many more workers to make a living, to get off the government assistance in many cases, lead to a far happier worker and more money into the marketplace when workers have more time off and money to spend.

Adding those extra days and hours to workers lives can also allow them the choice, the leisure time to delve more into personal pursuits, family, the arts, entertainment; it could be a boon to the economy. There is a (and conservatives and Republicans will love this term) "trickle down" effect. According to a study commissioned by the US Travel Association (by Oxford Economics) shows that if Americans just used all their currently allotted time off, there would be an additional $160 billion in sales, not just in travel related businesses but across several sectors. That would generate an additional $52 billion dollars in earned income and 1.2 million additional jobs.

So if you are getting vacation time... take it! "Take it," as Fareed Zakaria said today, "as your patriotic duty."

And yet, big money pushes government to allow them to extract the money from the workers, to continue to burden the workers with extra hours, and therefore, fewer workers to do the job.

The accounting firm of Ernst & Young did a study on their own employees and they found that for every additional ten hours taken as vacation time the company saw their profits go up by 8% in improvement ratings.

This is not just a fantasy I've dreamed up. There are hard cold facts involved here. The things I'm proposing, these things I've been proposing for decades, are doable.

Consider also if you are salaried, if you are required as I am to work 38.75 hours per week, if you work on minute longer, you have just lost that salaried amount be a degree. Let's say you work one week double hours at 77.5 hours. How does that not mean your pay has literally been cut in half? So every minute you work longer than your baseline expected hours, is actually taking money from your bank account. Or your retirement.

Corporations put a major spin on this of course. Just ask them about that and see what they say. They have a very good and practiced argument for it. But don't let them fool you. The problem with most managers is that they cannot see the bigger picture either.

But, the bigger picture is indeed there.

Labor Day is a celebration of the worker, the laborer. Let's not just celebrate them, us, but let's dig deep and find out we can all step into the future, into a better future for everyone and not just those at the top, or the very rich and truly appreciate those who Labor Day is really about.

Wouldn't you like to be able to afford to take time off, go on vacation and enjoy a better life with more and not less, freedom?

No comments:

Post a Comment