Labor Day is a time to celebrate the U.S. labor movement and all its hard-won victories ― including holidays, like Labor Day itself. And yet nearly one in four workers won’t be enjoying the day off with pay on Monday.
Twenty-three percent of private-sector workers in the U.S. don’t get paid holidays off from their jobs, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s roughly the same amount of workers who don’t get any paid vacation time.
Although most of the U.S. workforce does get paid holidays off, it’s low-wage workers who are the most likely not to. Among those in the lowest-earning quartile of workers, a little over half do not get any paid holidays. By contrast, more than 9 out of 10 workers in the highest-earning quartile do get paid holidays.
In other words, the less you’re paid to begin with, the less likely you are to spend Labor Day with your family without sacrificing a day’s pay. Just as you would be vastly less likely to be able to stay home from work while sick. Only 39 percent of workers in the bottom quartile get paid sick days, compared to 84 percent of workers in the highest.
As far as paid holidays go, the most recent survey shows a slight improvement over the previous year. When The Huffington Post reported on the data last year, 48 percent of workers in the lowest-paid quartile had said they got paid while not working on holidays, compared with 52 percent this year. Among the highest earners, the rates went unchanged.
Not surprisingly, the workers least likely to have paid holidays are those who are employed in the service industry or work part-time.
The U.S. has 10 official federal holidays on the calendar ― all days on which the federal government is generally closed and federal workers stay at home. But unlike most other developed countries, the U.S. does not mandate that private-sector workers get to enjoy paid holidays.
According to an analysis by the Center for Economic Policy and Research, most nations that are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development guarantee at least six paid holidays for workers. Those without such a mandate still manage to guarantee paid vacation time. The U.S., however, doesn’t guarantee either.
Some liberals in Congress would like to change that. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) has sponsored legislation that would require employers to give their workers at least some paid vacation time, a concept strongly opposed by business groups and most Republican lawmakers. Grayson has pitched the idea as basic economic fairness. “Overwhelmingly, it’s the low-income workers who don’t get the paid vacation,” he previously told HuffPost.
Although the idea of a paid vacation or holiday mandate hasn’t caught on, more and more Americans like the idea of guaranteeing workers sick days. Four states ― California, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Oregon ― have laws on the books that make sure workers can accrue paid sick days through their jobs, as do a growing number of liberal cities. And although paid sick day legislation has stalled in Congress, President Barack Obama recently signed an executive order requiring federal contractors to give their workers some amount of sick leave.