NEWS: Sanders Introduces Legislation to Finally Guarantee Paid Vacation to U.S. Workers

WASHINGTON, March 22 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, Pensions (HELP) Committee, this week introduced legislation that would ensure that the United States finally joins virtually every other major country on Earth in guaranteeing workers the right to earn paid annual vacation leave. This legislation comes just a week after Sanders introduced legislation and held a HELP Committee hearing on establishing a 32-hour workweek in America with no loss in pay.

Sanders is joined on the Guaranteed Paid Vacation Act by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Sen. Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.) while Rep. Seth Magaziner (RI-02) introduced companion legislation in the House.

“It is time to end the international embarrassment of the United States being the only major country on Earth not to guarantee paid vacation days to workers,” said Sen. Sanders. “We hear a lot of talk about family values in America, but let’s be clear: When a husband, wife, and kids, during the course of an entire year, are unable to spend any time together on vacation, that is not a family value.  That is an attack on everything that a family is supposed to stand for. It’s not a radical idea to require companies in America to provide at least two weeks of paid vacation to their workers. What’s radical is that millions of Americans are not only working longer hours for lower wages, but that they do not receive a single paid vacation day in the year 2024. That should not be happening in the United States of America, the richest country in the history of the world.”

“Americans who put in an honest day’s work deserve to take time off, and I’m proud to introduce the House companion to this legislation to make this a reality for all,” said Rep. Magaziner. “This is a matter of fairness and respect in the workplace. No one works harder than American workers, and they have earned a break.”

While millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages, the U.S. remains the only major economy in the world to not guarantee some type of paid vacation time to its people. Today in Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and many countries in Europe, workers are guaranteed at least 10 days of paid vacation. In other countries, such as France, Austria, and Belgium, paid vacation benefits are even stronger.

Meanwhile in the U.S., nearly 40 percent of workers are on the job at least 50 hours a week and a staggering 18 percent are clocking at least 60 hours a week, as of 2019. The average full-time worker in the U.S. now works 42 hours a week – an estimate that does not necessarily account for those working multiple jobs. On top of this, more than 8 million Americans work multiple jobs, with 4.7 million working a second part-time job on top of a full-time job. The American worker does all of this without a federal guarantee of earned paid vacation time.

If passed, the Guaranteed Paid Vacation Act would ensure that:

  • All employees have a right to accrue no less than one hour of paid annual leave for every 25 hours worked.
  • Employees who work full time will earn no less than two weeks of paid annual leave per year, to be used for any reason, at their standard rate of pay. This leave will be provided in addition to any paid sick leave or family and medical leave.
  • Employees are protected against discrimination for exercising their right to take annual paid time off.

According to a recent study, the benefits of taking time off from work include higher productivity, greater employee retention, increased workplace morale, and significant health benefits.

Lack of paid time off has a significant negative impact on not only the employee, but the society as a whole. A study by Oxford Economics found benefits of taking time off from work include higher productivity, greater employee retention, increased workplace morale, and significant health benefits.

The study also found that when people take time off, the economy benefits. For example, if employees who already get time off took the full amount they were eligible for, the economy would benefit from more than $160 billion in total business sales, $21 billion in tax revenues, and 1.2 million additional jobs would be supported in industries like retail and manufacturing.

The Guaranteed Paid Vacation Act is endorsed by the Center for Law and Social Policy, Economic Opportunity Institute, Economic Policy Institute, Family Equality, Family Values @ Work, MomsRising, Mothering Justice, NAACP, National Employment Law Project, National Partnership for Women and Families, National Women’s Law Center, Oxfam America, Paid Leave for All, SEIU (Service Employees International Union), SMART (International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers), UnidosUS, UNITE HERE, Women Employed, and ZERO TO THREE.

To read the bill text, click here.
To read the one-pager, click here.