Sanders, House Dems Propose Guaranteed ‘Paid Time Off for All’

By: Julia Conley; Common Dreams

“Americans who put in an honest day’s work deserve to take time off,” said Rep. Seth Magaziner. “This is a matter of fairness and respect in the workplace.”

With nearly 27 million American workers lacking any annual paid leave days, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday said Congress must “end the international embarrassment” of being the only wealthy country in the world that doesn’t ensure people can take time off from work without risking their livelihoods.

The Vermont Independent senator plans to introduce a companion bill to the Protected Time Off (PTO) Act, which was unveiled by U.S. Reps. Seth Magaziner (D-R.I.), Nikki Budzinski (D-Ill.), Greg Casar (D-Texas), and Jasmine Crockett (D-Texas).

“Americans who put in an honest day’s work deserve to take time off, and I’m proud to introduce the PTO Act to make this a reality for all,” said Magaziner. “This is a matter of fairness and respect in the workplace.”

Under the PTO Act, employees who work full time would earn at least two weeks of paid annual leave per year, which they could use for any reason with no loss in pay. Workers would be protected from discrimination for exercising their right to take annual time off. Paid vacation time would be guaranteed in addition to paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave.

“The United States is the richest country in the history of the world—and yet, we fall behind nearly every other developed nation in terms of worker benefits and paid time off. For the millions of American workers, including the vast majority of hourly workers, a day off to care for a sick child or attend a friend’s wedding means missing a day’s pay—forcing workers to choose between their family, friends, or their own health and well-being, and financial stability,” said Crockett. “The PTO Act sets a standard for all employers to adhere to, allowing all workers a set number of PTO days per year and bringing American labor policy closer to that of most of the developed world.”

The lawmakers noted that workers in the European Union are guaranteed a minimum of 20 paid vacation days per year, with some countries requiring as many as 25 to 30 days off annually.

Forty-three members of Congress have signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation, and labor advocacy groups and unions including the Economic Policy Institute, the National Employment Law Project, and the AFL-CIO have endorsed the PTO Act.

“We’re coming out of the gate with a lot of momentum,” said Magaziner. “We’re going to keep fighting to get this bill passed and signed into law because Americans work hard and everyone deserves to take a break every once in a while.”

Susan Valentine, political director for the hospitality industry union UNITE HERE, said paid time off must no longer be treated as “a perk or a bonus” in the United States.

“It is a fundamental right that every worker deserves,” said Valentine. “But too often, workers in the service and hospitality industries don’t have access to PTO—perpetuating inequality and reinforcing a system that values profit over people. We must strive for a future where all workers have the opportunity to take off without sacrificing their financial security.”