For those workers who were lucky enough to get the day off, Labor Day was a day to relax, spend with families and friends, maybe even get some errands done and go to a barbeque. But instead of just being a day off to relax, Labor Day has become a day that leaves us wondering where in the world our summer went.
Another summer has come and already passed. 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 people try to save up as much of their vacation days for the summer. But unfortunately, for most workers, we weren’t able to do any of this – we were lucky if we got any time off at all.
Even if we do get time off, we rarely get what we want since we have to schedule days off so far in advance. This is because many of the companies we work for 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.
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 for the past 30 years.
And with all this extra work, taking a vacation certainly hasn’t gotten any easier. Most workers in Europe get an average of four to six weeks off per year. But in the U.S. we’re lucky if we can get two. Since we have so little paid vacation time, even if we do get time off, we can’t always take it. Most workers in the U.S. don’t use all of their vacation time because they can’t afford to. This isn’t a surprise when most workers’ incomes have dropped at least 17 percent since 2007.
So, 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 threatened to shut down as many 70 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 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. But most of time, if we have relatives to turn to, they have to work too. So either we have to leave our kids at home alone or pay for some sort of childcare. But with State’s continuously slashing funds for childcare, most options are either too full or too expensive. So, our only option is to leave our kids alone and go to work.
Life is meant to be spent living. Every one of us deserves the right to live meaningful lives where we can actually spend real time with our families, travel and do the things we are interested in. But in this society, we end up living just to go to work. If we feel like our summer just came and went, it’s because we never had it in the first place.