No Time For The Summertime

The summer months are supposed to be a time to spend with our families, possibly visit relatives in other cities, and simply hang out and get some rest. Because the weather is nice and the kids are out of school, many of us try to save up as much of our vacation days for the summer. But unfortunately, for most workers, we’re rarely able to do any of this – we’re lucky if we get any time off at all.

Even 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 so low because companies have not replaced workers who either get fired, quit or retire. Not only does this mean that we are stuck with more work, it also means that it is harder to take time off because there aren’t enough workers to cover. So we can try to use our sick days but for many of us that might mean risking our jobs. More times 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 more work for the rest of us.

The truth is, that there is so much work 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 are working harder and longer hours than ever before but our income has either stayed the same or gone down over the past 30 years when considering inflation.

We see examples of this in every industry and in every country. Teachers are being laid off, leaving the rest to teach larger classrooms and for less pay. Bus drivers have seen their wages cut and work hours increase. Nurses have had to treat more patients and cover more medical stations. Our break times are being shortened, if we even get breaks at all – many of us either work through our breaks or sneak a meal in between the cracks.

And with any time off that we can get, it’s harder to spend it doing what we might 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? California’s 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 not likely we’ll spend it on a vacation.

And if there ever was a time we might be able to spend more time with our family – summer should be it. But just because our kids are freed from school does not mean that we are freed from work. So what should be a time to spend with our kids turns into a time to find somewhere to drop them off. Most of the time any relatives we might turn to have to work too. So either we have to leave our kids at home alone or pay for some sort of childcare. But with states continuously slashing funds for childcare, most options are either too full or too expensive. So for many of us, our only option is to leave our kids alone and go to work. And for 20 percent of families, when their children are not in school, they often go hungry because there is no more food assistance.

None of this comes as a huge surprise. We have all been under more stress in the last few years. Everyday we feel the pressure of the mounting work that only seems to grow with each passing day. And every year we see the results of this in the record profits of the companies we work for.

This society doesn’t work for us – it works for the corporations and the banks and the super rich. Every one of us deserves the right to live meaningful lives where we can spend real time with our families, travel and pursue our interests. Life is meant to be spent living. But in this society, we end up living just to go to work. So if we feel like our summer is about to disappear before our eyes, it’s because it was never ours in the first place.