Time to respect workers

website - zachary toillionAmerican workers are among the most productive on the planet. A study commissioned by the Economic Policy Institute found worker productivity grew 80 percent from 1973 to 2011. Remarkably, 23 percent increased since 2000. During the same time, wages remained stagnant and in many cases failed to keep up with inflation. Americans are doing more work for comparatively less.

Adding insult to injury, U.S. workers consistently lack the same benefits received by workers of other industrialized nations around the world. America is ranked 13th in the world for minimum wage. Our European allies have minimum wages of $10.32 to $14.24 per hour. Our neighbors to the north in Canada have a minimum wage of $10.25. Australia has the world’s record with an astounding $17.39 minimum wage. All of these countries have strong economies and less wealth inequality than the United States.

It doesn’t stop there. A total of 145 nations across the world require employers to offer paid sick leave with 127 of these nations requiring a week or more. The US has no paid sick leave requirement. The same is true of paid vacation. Of the countries the U.S. is currently bombing—Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Libya and Syria—an average of 20 paid vacation days is mandated by federal law. The communist countries of Vietnam, China and Cuba average 12 days. The U.S. stands alone as the only industrialized nation not to adopt a paid vacation law.

Access to health care is another issue where the American worker lags behind foreign competitors. 36 other industrialized nations provide health care as a right of citizenship through either nationalized health care or a single-payer system. This ensures all workers have access to health care and is also economically beneficial because employers in other countries aren’t required to offer insurance, unlike their American competitors.

In the 2014 elections, Democrats ran on the issue of equal pay for women in the workplace. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. The reasons for this are complex and a written mandate to pay women equally would not solve the problem. One of the most predominant reasons this incongruity exists is the lack of paid maternity leave. Of the 38 advanced economies of the world, the U.S. stands alone in not mandating paid maternity leave.

The U.S. remains the wealthiest country on the planet and we’ve done that in large part thanks to our workers. We owe our workers basic freedoms when it comes to the workplace that we clearly are not affording them now. If we adopt the measures the rest of the industrialized world has adopted for decades, we will have workers more satisfied with their jobs and lives. That’s good for both workers and the economy.

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