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April 23, 2003
Campaign Looks for Mandatory Paid Vacations
A freelance journalist from Santa Monica, Calif. is heading a campaign to lobby Congress to pass legislation that would require businesses to provide full-time workers with paid time off.

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Joe Robinson founded the Work to Live campaign in 2000 to provide workers three weeks of vacation that he says will boost productivity in addition to workers' health, reports Chicago Tribune columnist Carol Kleiman.

"The U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world without paid vacation laws on the books," says Robinson. "Vacation time is completely up to the employer, yet there are real benefits to vacations. They allow you to rejuvenate yourself, recover your health and diminish stress. You come back refreshed and with higher productivity."

Robinson tells the columnist that even when employers offer employees paid vacation, productivity demands coupled with a lean workforce don't allow the employees to utilize the benefit. Americans average 8.1 days of vacation per year after one year of service and 10.2 days after three years of service, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"Nothing illustrates the stranglehold of overwork on American lives today than the fact that 175 million vacation days each year are not taken by employees who are entitled to them," says Robinson. "Instead of getting more vacation time, we're going the other way. Yet we need the break. We're not machines. We need downtime."

There are opponents to Robinson's proposal, Kleiman notes. Critics say mandatory vacations may not be conducive to a robust American economy.

"I think America's leading edge in business is our dedication to our jobs," says Susan R. Holland, president of HollandRusk & Associates, an executive-search firm. "I do a lot of work internationally and am aware of the vacation time European employees have. But in many cases, the push to excellence is lost. And if three weeks' vacation, with only one year under your belt, becomes a law, I'm concerned we might lose our edge."

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