Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Galley Slave's-Eye View

Via Kevin Drum, we read this amazing article written by Joe Robinson for the LATimes on paid time-off banks, the increasingly popular combining of employees' vacation, personal and sick time into one amorphous blob:
"All-in-one-leave banks have stormed through offices like rhinoviruses. The number of companies offering them swelled from 20% in 2000 to 67% today, according to CCH Inc., a human resources firm in Chicago. The epidemic comes as the number of sick-leave days continues to decline or vanish. Just three years ago, the average sick leave provided by companies with sick-leave policies for employees was 9.3 days. Now it's 6.9 days, plunging to 5 for most paid time-off sick-leave plans."
And as the top dogs of industry increase their earnings along with their perks, those at the bottom of the food chain get less and less:
"Nearly half of U.S. workers don't get any paid sick leave — for low-wage earners, it's 75%. Unlike 139 other nations, the U.S. doesn't guarantee paid sick leave...
Companies are cutting or eliminating vacation leave (nearly a third of American women don't get any; a quarter of men), pensions, health insurance and ergonomics rules. Meanwhile, the Economist reports that corporate profits in the U.S. are higher than they've been in 75 years as benefits — including sick leave — shrink.
Only one segment of wage earners has not had benefits slashed. "Professionals, managers and CEOs have great benefits," said Robert Drago, a Penn State economist and work-life expert."
And the current administration nurtures just the climate to encourage this peonage-making. Common Dreams offered a tight roundup of the Bushco assaults on labor in just the first two years in office. AFSCME continued the chronology. You need only remember the recent passage of the bankruptcy bill, the fight against overtime, the horror at the mere mention of the minimum wage, and the Big Pharma giveaway disguised as Medicare reform to know on which side of the fence your government squats.

We may not realize it, but we have been down this road before. The question is whether we have learned anything this time out.

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