Opinion: Beyond the holiday season: employees should take their own lives into their own hands

miller is a local author, professor at San Diego City College, and vice president of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 1931. He lives in Golden Hill.

San Diego is a tourist city, so it’s easy to believe half the world is always on vacation as we weave our way through crowds of out-of-towners in the Gaslamp District, on El Prado in Balboa Park, or on the beach. Indeed, as the calendar moves past Memorial Day into the Solstice and beyond, many of us feel the tug of wanderlust or dream of stealing a slice of the bright, endless summer that our city’s boosters foster.

Unfortunately, the reality for many American workers is that the happy days of summer either never come or are extremely scarce. The United States could be among them the richest countries in the world, but compared to other developed countries it is a No Vacation Nation. Unlike European governments Like France, Spain, Germany or the UK, the US does not mandate paid vacation days or vacation time at the federal level, leaving such decisions to employers. As a result, American workers take an average of 14 days off, whereas Your colleagues elsewhere get up to twice as much.

In general, Americans don’t have the same number of paid days off and fewer family vacations than workers in countries with comparable economies, due to weaker job protections but also a workplace culture that values ​​the grind. As a BBC feature noted just last year, 28 percent of American workers didn’t take vacation days “just to show their dedication to their job and not to be seen as a ‘slacker.'” “Normalize” rework to prove its value and productivity. This type of toxic work culture has grown across the United States, from service-sector jobs to the corporate world, although the gap between workers’ productivity and wages has widened dramatically since 1979, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

But beyond that reality, the bigger question is: how much of the work we do matters to us?

Perhaps the hidden truth is that we’ve become our own worst enemies by incorporating a onerous time management ideology into our daily lives and sacrificing everything that can’t be quantified and measured on the altar of efficiency and productivity. We have become, as Henry David Thoreau once said, our own slave masters.

Over a century ago, Thoreau questioned the wisdom of the Puritan work ethic, noting that:

“Even in this comparatively free country, most people, through sheer ignorance and error, are so occupied with the artificial cares and needlessly rough labors of life that its fairer fruits cannot be plucked from them. Her fingers are too clumsy from fatigue and tremble too much for that. In fact, the working man has no leisure for true integrity day after day; he cannot afford to have the manliest relationships with men; his labor power would be devalued in the market. He has no time to be anything but a machine. How can he well remember his ignorance—needed by his growth—who has to use his knowledge so often? We should sometimes feed and clothe him for free and recruit him with our liquors before judging him. The most beautiful features of our nature, such as the blossoming of fruit, can only be preserved through the finest treatment. But we don’t treat ourselves and each other that tenderly.”

And for whatever lessons the “great resignation” that the pandemic has brought about may have taught, many of our political, cultural, and economic leaders continue to have nothing to offer us but the unconstructed gospel of the market of one kind or another Shape. For every company that dwells on “flexibility,” or a book or article about the dangers of “burnout,” there’s an Amazon carelessly ransacking workers, or a boss like Elon Musk calling for a return to draconian overhaul.

But why do we have to “dig our graves as soon as we are born” like that the grand old courage teacher says so, Why not just stop running? Why not be more tender with us and each other?

Perhaps what we need most, then, is not a “vacation” in which we turn to marketed experiences to fill our inner gaps, but to fundamentally rethink the way we live. As scholar Kathi Weeks argues in The Problem with Work, We must individually and collectively “get a life” by “rejecting the existing world of work that is given to us” and demanding alternatives.

Bread yes, but also roses.

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