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Why Europe’s Laws On Vacations Are Better Than Your Wildest Dreams (and How Badly Americans Get Screwed)

Imagine this: You work 25 hours a week at the McDonald’s in Cairo, New York, and have finally earned two weeks of paid vacation. You set out on a bike trip. On the first day in the saddle, you hit a pothole and crash, cracking your collar bone. You sit on your couch for the rest of your vacation watching the Tour de France. Tough luck. Unless you worked for McDonald’s in Europe. If you did, you would be entitled to a fully paid do-over, according to a June 21 ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union, the highest court in Europe (whose rulings must be followed by all member states). This court ruled that all European workers are entitled to their full vacation after they have healed: “A worker who becomes unfit during his paid annual leave, is entitled at a later point to a period of leave of the same duration as that of his sick leave.” This means that European workers can take their paid sick leave during their paid vacations, and take their vacations all over again, and guess what? American corporations who do business in Europe, like McDonalds, have to pay for it! And the comparisons between American and European workplaces get worse: Not only do American corporations with operations in Europe have to provide their workers with paid sick leave during worker vacations, but also, by law they have to provide paid vacations in the first place, which in most countries amounts to a month or more. In the U.S. there is no legal obligation at all. If you get a paid vacation it’s either because the company “gave” it to you or because you achieved it through collective bargaining. Here’s a table comparing developed nations by statutory minimum annual leave and paid public holidays. Read ‘em and weep. What about paid medical leave? Fuggetaboutit. We don’t have any laws that mandate paid leave for pregnancy, sickness, or care of sick family members. When it comes to paid maternity leave, the U.S. is one of four countries, out of 173 studied, that fails to provide paid maternity leave. The other three are Liberia, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland. (I guess with all our money going to Wall Street, we can’t afford it.) Wait, wait, This just in: We do have the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which provides us with the legal right to request unpaid medical leave. Well not quite. You have to work at an employer with 50 or more employees or work in the public sector, and you have to have to meet certain conditions to be eligible. The net result, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, is that only “slightly more than half (54.9 percent) of U.S. workers (and 46.5 percent of private sector workers) also meet the FMLA’s length of service and hours related eligibility requirements.” So if you work at McDonalds in Vienna, Austria, by law you get a full month off (22 work days) in your first year plus 13 paid public holidays for a total of 35 days. And after six years of flipping burgers you get 36 days of paid vacation plus 13 paid public holidays for a total of 49 paid vacation and public holidays – that’s more than two months off, paid! (That’s in addition to your paid sick leave, maternity and paternity paid leave, and paid leave to care for a sick relative.) And you’re covered whether you’re a full-time manager or a part-time employee. In upstate New York, McDonalds “gives” you two weeks paid vacation after one year of service provided you work a minimum of 20 hours a week for one year. (Your vacation pay is “based on the average weekly hours worked, multiplied by your rate of pay.”) Same company, same product, but our lack of legal protections show clearly that in our countries Corporate America is at the helm. (Can you imagine what a McDonalds would say if you asked to start your vacation again because you became ill just after you began it?) Economists call our lack of legal protections “labor market flexibility,” as if it were a good thing. Sicko. Read the rest…if you can handle the raging envy you’re bound to experience from hearing how unbelievably humane Europe is!

Les Leopold is the author of The Looting of America: How Wall Street’s Game of Fantasy Finance Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions, and Prosperity—and What We Can Do About It

How the Federal Reserve Is Manipulating Our Kids Into Loving Wall Street

Each year the Federal Reserve sponsors a national academic competition to indoctrinate our leading high school students into revering the marvels of modern finance capitalism. Unfortunately, nowhere in that intensive program do our students learn about how the largest U.S. banks have turned the Federal Reserve into their own private piggy-bank. The Fed, through a […] Read More..

What If the Greedy Rich Paid Their Share? 8 Things to Know About Wealth and Poverty in the US

We’re far from poor — we just have a wildly lopsided distribution of wealth that makes us seem poor. America is loaded. We are not a struggling nation ready to go under. We are not facing an enormous debt crisis despite what the politicians and pundits proclaim. We are not the next Greece. Rather, we […] Read More..

5 Ways Wall Street Is Putting the Squeeze on American Students

The damage Wall Street inflicted on our educational infrastructure is growing. March 13, 2012  | The damage to our educational infrastructure is growing, according to Catherine Rampell’s chilling report in the New York Times. As state funding has dwindled, public colleges have raised tuition and are now resorting to even more desperate measures — cutting […] Read More..

How Can the World’s Richest Country Let Children Go Hungry? 6 Tricks Corporate Elites Use to Hoard All the Wealth

December 21, 2011  –  AlterNet “Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans, nearly 1 in 2, have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.” “Study: 1 in 5 American children lives in poverty.” “In 2010, 17.2 million households, 14.5 percent of households (approximately one […] Read More..

Why Are We Forced to Worship at the Feet of ‘Mythical’ Financial Markets Controlled by the Elite?

We are told to appease the market gods or face eternal financial damnation. The markets are “jittery,” “upset,” “skittish” and “unnerved.” They are “confident” or “unsure.” They are “demanding” that political leaders “put up or shut up.” And they are “reacting unfavorably” to Obama’s newfound populism. These are just a few of the many ways […] Read More..