America the Workaholic

What is it with us Americans and our servile attitude toward work?

We typically spend more than half of our waking hours either at work or getting to and from work. We compliantly give 50 out of 52 weeks of each year to our employers, reserving only two weeks a year to ourselves for vacation -- this means that if you start work at age 18 and retire at 65, only 94 weeks out of those 47 years belong to you. In fact, millions of Americans (especially the hard working poor) don't even get two weeks vacation, while one-fourth of those who are allotted two weeks don't or can't afford to take the full time off. Meanwhile, millions more who go on "vacation" take their jobs with them, thanks to laptops, email, faxes,and cell phones.

America has gone from "work ethic" to "work excess." The average work year for a middle-income family is now 6-weeks longer than it was just a decade ago. It would be one thing if this extra effort was being richly rewarded or even appreciated, yet average real wages today are less than they were 30 years ago, and job security is non-existent as corporations now feel free to discard loyal workers on whim, treating them as disposable commodities rather than as valued resources.

None of this is ultimately good for the corporations, much less workers or our society. A recent corporate survey found that American workers are stressed to the breaking point, with a third of them feeling not merely overworked, but overwhelmed. The survey reports that this results in on-the-job mistakes, resentment, more injuries, absenteeism, more health-care claims, and turnovers.

This is Jim Hightower saying ... Reducing the workload is a huge issue with American families. Americans need a real vacation (like the one-to-two months provided by our European competitors), and they want and deserve a 35-hour work week. Yet both major parties are in the pockets of their corporate funders, so neither has had to cojones to challenge the corporate orthodoxy and stand with the people. No wonder working folks don't vote.

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