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 United States is the only advanced nation in the world that doesn’t guarantee workers annual leave. If by chance 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. 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 absences. We can 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 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 a part-time or temporary positions. Our poverty, our uncertainty, our desperation – to the bosses, it is just a chance to squeeze more out of every one of us.
The truth is, that 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 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. With the rising cost of goods, the mounting debt, and wages that won’t go up, we know that we’re working more for less.
We see examples of this in every industry. 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 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? 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.
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 out of 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. The more we work, the more we are deprived of family life.
There is only one solution – for workers, those of us who do the work of this society, to organize together and fight for a life in which we can spend time with our families, take vacations, and enjoy life. This summer we should take as much time as we can with friends and family, and get some rest and relaxation. But we should also get ready to fight. We do the work, and we should have the good things in life as well, especially the most valuable thing in the world – time.