Here we go again, Democrats are at it again, telling employers how it's done! Folks, I'm telling you, at the rate we are going, stick a fork in it, we are almost DONE!
By: Erika Lovley
May 21, 2009
Rep. Alan Grayson was standing in the middle of Disney World when it hit him: What Americans really need is a week of paid vacation.
So on Thursday, the Florida Democrat will introduce the Paid Vacation Act — legislation that would be the first to make paid vacation time a requirement under federal law.
The bill would require companies with more than 100 employees to offer a week of paid vacation for both full-time and part-time employees after they’ve put in a year on the job. Three years after the effective date of the law, those same companies would be required to provide two weeks of paid vacation, and companies with 50 or more employees would have to provide one week.
The idea: More vacation will stimulate the economy through fewer sick days, better productivity and happier employees.
“There’s a reason why Disney World is the happiest place on Earth: The people who go there are on vacation,” said Grayson, a freshman who counts Orlando as part of his home district. “Honestly, as much as I appreciate this job and as much as I enjoy it, the best days of my life are and always have been the days I’m on vacation.”
According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, 28 million Americans — or about a quarter of the work force — don’t get any paid vacation. The center says that a lack of vacation causes stress and workplace burnout and that those evil twins cost the economy more than $300 billion each year.
One more if-you’re-reading-this-then-you’re-probably-not-on-vacation fact: The United States is dead last among 21 industrial countries when it comes to mandatory R&R.
France currently requires employers to provide 30 days of paid leave.
Not surprisingly, some in the travel industry are salivating over Grayson’s bill; Grayson spokesman Todd Jurkowski said the U.S. Tour Operators Association and the Adventure Travel Trade Association are both on board. Other tourism and labor groups are expected to sign on in the coming days.
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The U.S. Travel Association has not yet endorsed the measure, but Senior Vice President Geoff Freeman says Congress does need to consider new ways to stimulate the vacation industry and travel economy.
So far, no group has come out in opposition of the bill. Nor has anyone announced opposition to roller coaster rides, cookouts on the beach or salt-water taffy on the boardwalk.
But with many Americans out of work and an economy in shambles, some say this may not be the best time to propose more time away from the office, especially on the boss’s dime.
The Society for Human Resource Management issued a statement Wednesday warning that “a one-size-fits-all, government-imposed mandate is not the answer.”
Because of the 50- and 100-employee thresholds, most small businesses wouldn’t be directly affected by the bill immediately. But the National Small Business Association warned of indirect consequences; companies might artificially hold their hiring at the 50-to-100-employee level to avoid the costs of paid vacation time.
The bill also could have a negative impact on manufacturers already bracing for higher costs that could be associated with the climate-change legislation working its way through the House.
One place where the bill wouldn’t have much of an effect: Capitol Hill.
Congressional staffers already get paid vacation, even if they don’t actually have time to take it. And members can take time off during recesses — as they will next week — albeit not as much as they once did.
While members once had much of the summer off, Congress will be in session this year virtually all of June and July. That leaves August, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) says that’s not really enough time to unwind.
“I’m off in the state for a full month catching up on all the things I’ve missed throughout the year, but you don’t have time for yourself,” she said. “You don’t have much time for your family. And after a while, you do start to get just tired.”
Grayson’s bill is part of a larger move by Democrats to improve employee and workplace standards. Earlier this month, Democrats introduced a bill that would make employers give mandatory sick time.
“The committee is looking at a number of proposals to help workers balance family responsibilities and work duties,” said House Education and Labor Committee spokesman Aaron Albright. “The fact is the United States is behind the rest of the world in ensuring that workplaces have paid leave policies. These policies not only benefit workers but also help the employers’ bottom line because of lower turnover and better job satisfaction.”
But in the workaholic world of Washington, not everyone is so impressed with the restorative — or stimulative — powers of time unplugged.
Asked Tuesday what he’d do with an extra week of paid vacation, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said: “I’d keep the cash and spend the week working on the farm, with my BlackBerry and office files.