Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 20, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

THE CONSERVATIVE ASSAULT ON LABOR....In the LA Times today, Joe Robinson writes about the latest squeeze on the working class: the paid time-off bank, or PTO, which combines sick leave with vacation time. The result: if you dare to take a vacation, you risk ruin if you get sick later that year. And if you run out of sick leave, tough luck:

Slashed sick leave is part of a broad assault on labor roundly ignored in the last election across a downsized workplace as the burden of risk shifts from employers to employees, who, if anyone's listening out there, are livid about it, whether Republican or Democrat or independent. 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.

...."It's a huge cost to the public when someone who doesn't have paid sick days loses a job and has to go on public assistance," said Linda Meric, director of 9 to 5, National Assn. of Working Women. "People are being forced to choose between being good employees and good family members. That's not a choice anyone should have to make."

Robinson makes several key points:

  • PTO banks don't work. Despite the rising popularity of PTO, unscheduled absences from work have risen over the past five years, not fallen.

  • PTO policies tend to force more people onto public assistance.

  • PTOs decidedly aren't imposed on corporate executives, whose benefits have grown more and more lavish even as they've been slashed for everyone else.

There's a single core reason why this and so many other issues of class warfare have become increasingly acceptable: the decline of labor unions in America. None of this would happen not PTOs, not stagnant working class wages, not skyrocketing CEO compensation, not declining healthcare coverage if employers were forced to negotiate, market style, with labor unions that had roughly the same bargaining power as the corporations themselves. More on this later.

Kevin Drum 1:37 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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